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July-Aug. 1990/ S3. SO U.S. / $4.50 Canada 



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Artists 

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Don’t Talk To My Grandmoth 

By Robert A. Metzge 



The Bogart Revival 
By Joel Hen 






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BERT A. METZ 



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Three Boston Artists 

By Sarah Smith 

Art by Carol Heyer 



O il paint should never feel the damp. Drop by drop 
water works into canvas. Manets and Picassos 
sprout fungi. Brown rings spread like Phneri nests in the 
waterlogged Back Bay. Under the hard surface, layer 
splits from layer. Then it is time for Ernest, the restorer. 
Then it is too late. 

In the great marble hall of Boston’s Institute of Human 
Culture, the forty -third year of the aliens, Ernest Pole met 
the old woman and the Phner by Rembrandt’s Juno. 

Juno dominated the exhibition hall, immortal, serene, 
and ruined. Cracked varnish bloomed across her dress. 
Oily smoke stains had obliterated all but the shadow of 
her hands, and a long rip struck across the canvas from 
her right shoulder down into her bosom. Her magnificent 
eyes held all time in them, endless and full of blessing. 

“Jennifer Torch, Boston Demolition and Rehabilita- 
tion.” The old woman didn’t bother rising to introduce 
herself. She sat on one of the velvet banquettes, boots half 
open, hands in her pockets. Her overalls still stank of Back 
Bay mud and her dirty hair had a permanent hard-hat 
dent. She was a peasant painted by Frans Hals. Ernest 
could have collaged her next to Juno from postcards in the 
museum shop. For a moment his hands itched to try it. 
Ernest was a secret collager. Late at night in his room he 
tore and pasted paper scraps from the streets: fugitive 
materials, the secret vice of the restorer. 

The alien was chunky, beaver-shaped. Its claws clicked 
once on the marble pavement and it only stirred, half- 
twitched round, then settled back down to look at the 
painting. It smelled doggy, like wet fur, overpowering the 
Museum’s own smell of lemon oil and flowers. 

“This is the painting? It’s in bad shape," the woman 
said. 

The Restoration department never used words like 
“bad shape.” Ernest winced. He had been in Restoration 
five years. Five years to fall in love with a painting too 
beautiful to lose and too fragile to restore. 

“ Juno was in the L.A. earthquake,” Ernest said. 
“There’s extensive water damage, burns in the canvas, 
and the rip and smoke damage that you see. She's got to 
be restored.” 

“It would help if you could see what’s happened to her,” 
Dr. Torch said, half to herself, half to him. “The structure 
of the painting.” 

She stood up, legs spread apart, hands on her hips, 
head thrown back and to one side, her lower lip thrust out, 
looking at Juno. Definitely Frans Hals. 

“It’s not our usual work. We esfn mostly buildings. It’d 
be a challenge.” 

Ernest stole a wary look at the Phner. From closer the 
Phner looked like an otter, animals Ernest had sometimes 
seen gliding through the drowned alleys of the Back Bay. 
Under the mud his fin* was tabbied gold, the color of Juno's 
crown. He didn’t look dangerous, any more than the 
woman looked like what the law said she was, a keeper of 
2 



dangerous animals. 

“Anyone can tell you — nobody can see structures 
better than a Phner. Phneri can look at a brick house and 
find the stress cracks humans wouldn’t see, whistle at a 
concrete piling and know where it’ll break. Th^y can'fes/ri 
how things are built.” She shrugged. “We’ve n^ver es/hed 
a painting. But structure is structure. Let me ‘ask hiip/ 

The alien sat back on his hind legs and chirped at her, 
bird-music rising into a squeak. She picked up the trans- 
lator-box by her feet. She began to play its keychord with 
her hand, and soft trills echoed in the chilly room. The 
little alien banged his tail on the floor, trilling back. 

“He wants to do it.” The old woman looked down at the 
alien with a crooked, affectionate smile. Her eyes snapped 
back up to Ernest. “Of course, he’s just an animal.” 

Up close she had the pale-eyed, fanatic look of any 
Bostonian who worked too long with aliens. Ernest had 
come from Chicago, and Bostonians frightened him. Bos- 
ton had made him take up collage: torn edges, uneasy 
juxtapositions. 

“You realize” — he pointed at the alien — "he’ll have 
to work under guard." 

The old woman let bitterness show in her face. 

“I’m sorry,” Ernest said. 

“Mr. Pole.” She sighed. “I’ve been with the Phneri for 
forty years. The Phneri are neither dangerous nor 
destructive. The Phneri are political exiles." 

“I don’t know much about politics,” Ernest said. “And 
I don’t remember the Day. I wasn’t even born when the 
Phneri came. I just want to save Juno. ” Ernest looked into 
the painting's majestic eyes and his heart lifted a little. 
“Juno’s my job,” he said. 

“The Phneri are my job. I employ most of the Phneri in 
Boston. Who are probably all the Phneri there are, 
anywhere. I don’t much care about human culture. I do 
care that each and every living Phner in my custody needs 
between five and six pounds of fish a day. A ton of fish a 
day, Mr. Pole, and the Museum pays me half what I get 
in architectural work.” 

He was not a rough man, but he took the old woman by 
the shoulders and turned her to face the painting. She 
looked up, and for a long moment kept looking. For a 
moment Ernest saw in the old woman’s face some reflec- 
tion of the young one Rembrandt had seen. 

Forty-three years ago, he wanted to tell her, the aliens 
landed in Boston. Six lost tourists, then ambassadors, 
builders, a bishop. A collage of the unknown. And one 
dreadful morning, an endless, helpless, panicked rain of 
animals like beavers. Humans were just another species 
now, unless they remembered who they were. 

(Continued to page 59) 

Copyright © 1990 by Sarah Smith 
For Mariah 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



Three Boston Artists 






Editor 

Charles C. Ryan 
Publisher 
A crazy alien 

j 

Assistant Editors 
Daniel D. Kennedy 
Laurel Lucas 

Janice M. Eisen j 

Floyd Kemske j 

Mary C. Ryan 

Dorothy Taylor 

Kristine Danowski 

Sari Boren I 

Advertising 

Mary Perry ! 

Tel. 1-617-935-9326 

Gofers 

Charles E. Ryan 

Thomas S. Ryan , 

Aboriginal Science Fiction (ISSN 0805*3108) ia j 
published bimonthly by AbsoluU* Entertainment Inc. 1 
in January, March, May, July, September, end J 
November for $H a year. Aboriginal Science Fiction j 
haa editorial offices at 100 Tower Office Park, Suite j 
K., Woburn, MA 01801. (All mail should be directed j 
to: Aboriginal ScteneeRcfio/i P.O. Box 2449, Woburn. | 
MaaaachuBcttH 01888-0819.) Second Clint* PtwUigc j 
Ralca paid at Woburn, MA, nnd iiddiLiunal mailing j 
office*. I^OSTMASTKR: Send nddreaa chnnge* to j 
Aboriginal Science Fiction P.O. Box 2149. Woburn. ■ 
MA 01888*0849. Hie h ingle copy price is $3.50 (plub 
dOccnta postage-handling). SubacripLiona are: $14 fur 
0 iiuuca, $24 for 12 and $32 for 18. Canadian and j 
foreign aubweription* are: $17 for G ifuniea. $^J0 for 12 ( 
iaaucs and $4 1 for 18 isxuc*. Maleriai from Una pub- 
lication may not lie reprinted or uned in any form ■ 
wjUioul permission. Copyright (C 1990 by Alartginat 
Science Fiction and individually copyrighted by the 
authors and artists who have contributed u> this 
July-August 1990 issue, Volume 4, Number 4, whole- 
copy Number 22, published in May 1990. j 

Aboriginal Science Fiction welcomes free-lance l 
submissions, but all submissions must lx; accom- 
panied by a self-addressed and slain |>e<l envelofx: j 
large enough for the insnuscript's return in the event 
it is not deemed suitable by the editorial staff. ; 
Aboriginal Science Fiction publishes original science [ 
fie Li on in the fonn of short stories between 2,500 and 
5,000 words. Payment is $250 upon publication. Any 
submission not accompanied by a return envelo|*e J 
and adequate return postage will not be returned. | 
Tlie publisher assumes no liability for unsolicited ! 
manuscripts or other materials. Writer’s guidelines 
arc available only if requests art: accompanied by a 
self-addressed stamped envelope. 

Aboriginal Science Ref ion welcomes letters to 
the editor. All letters should be sent to: Aboriginal 
Science Fiction, Boomerangs, P.O. Box 2449, Woburn, 
Mass. 01888-0849. All letters to tin* editor become the 
property of Aboriginal Science Ref ton and may be 
reproduced, in an edited, or unedited form at the j 
discretion of the editors. | 

ADVERTISING RATES are available on re- j 
quest by writing to Advertising Director e/o j 
Aboriginal Science Fiction, P.O. Box 2449, Woburn, I 
MA 01888-0849. ] 

BOOK REVIEWS: Publishers who would like \ 
books to be reviewed should send one copy to Darrell ! 
Schweitzer, 1 13 Dccpdale flood, Strafford, PA 19087; I 
or to; Janice Eisen, 225 Stale Street, Apt. 454, j 
Schenectady, NY 12305, and one copy In: Aboriginal l 
Science Fiction , P.O. Box 2449, Woburn, MA 01888- 
0849. j 

Aboriginal Science Fiction would like to thank ! 
the Daily Times Chronicle and various member* of ! 
Sh WA (Science Fiction Writer* of America) for their j 
encourage incut n nd ass is La nee. □ j 



Short Stories 



Three Boston Artists Page 2 

By Sarah Smith; art by Carol Heyer 

The Bogart Revival Page 10 

By Joel Henry Sherman; art by Charles Lang 

Birdbrain Page 18 

By Elaine Radford; art by David Brian 

Eyes of Chaos Page 26 

By Robert A. Metzger; art by Carol Heyer 

Oscar Carvalho, Spacial Page 43 



By James Stevens- Arce; art by David Brian 

How I Wrote the New Testament, Ushered in the 
Renaissance, and Birdied the 1 7th Hole at 
Pebble Beach Page 51 

By Mike Resnick; art by Lucy Synk 

A blatter of Taste Page 54 

By Esther M. Friesner; art by Larry Blamire 

Poetry 

To An Android Lover Page 40 

By Holly Lisle Deaton 





Departments 

Cover Art for A Matter of Taste 


Page 1 


By Larry Blamire 
Books 


Page 6 


By Darrell Schweitzer 
A Worldcon In Holland? 


Page 16 


By Kees van Toorn 
Our Alien Publisher 


Page 17 


By A Crazy Alien 
From the Bookshelf 


Page 33 


By Janice M. Eisen 
Aborigines 


Page 37 


By Laurel Lucas 
Our Renewal Policy 


Page 45 


Editor’s Notes 


Page 49 


By Charles C. Ryan 
What If? — Science 


Page 64 


By Robert A. Metzger 

Advertisements 

Cummings Office Park 


Page 5 


Mission Earth 


Page 9 


Back Issues 


Page 15 


Aboriginal Science Fiction 


Page 4 1 


A Long Time Ago 


Page 61 


The Aboriginal SF Anthology 


Page 63 


The Aboriginal Art Gallery 


Page 66 


TOR Books: Daywork! Breakup 


Page 68 


Classified Ads 


Page 67 


Aboriginal Science Fiction No. 22 










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BOOKS 




By Darrell Schweitzer 



Shock V alue 



E ven though we've had mag- \ 
azines in our field with titles j 
like Startling and Astounding and j 
Astonishing, and, yes, even one short- j 
lived item actually entitled Shock j 
(three issues, 1960, quite good), shock j 
value has never been what fantastic j 
literature was about. Shock is the i 
most transitory of literary effects. It j 
only works once, in the sense of shock- j 
as-surprise, and the test of any good 1 
fiction is that it can be read more than . 
once. 

You know how to tell a good : 
mystery story: you can read it again. ' 
with pleasure, already knowing who 
the murderer is. This is the difference 
between a Raymond Chandler novel 
and, say, the typical prose crossword 
puzzle in a mystery magazine. If, after j 
one reading, the story is as useless as j 
a spent match, it wasn't much of a ' 
story to start with. ; 

The same goes for horror fiction. If j 
the surprise, or gross-out (in the : 
crudest sense of shock), or whatever 
isn’t scary the second time through, it 
wasn’t a very good story to begin with. 
Real, effective horror touches some- 
thing genuine in the human psyche. It 
is like a mystery in the religious sense. 
To use Father Brown's distinction, if \ 
you take it out in the open and look at I 
it, a religious mystery is still a | 
mystery; as opposed to a secret, which , 
is no longer a secret when revealed. ! 
Real horror is still horrific even when 
you know there’s a monster in the 
closet and a rotting body in the bath- 
tub. 

Similarly, in fantasy, which is sel- 
dom shocking except in a satirical 



Rating System 


***** 


Outstanding | 


A-iVsV-JV 


Very Good 




Good ! 1 




Fair -! 


sY 


Poor ! 



6 



sense, the effect has to withstand 
revelation. The way you tell that 
Mark Twain's The Mysterious 
Stranger is a good fantasy is that the 
effect lingers. If it were a matter of 
“Surprise! Life is meaningless! God is 
amoral!” rather than one of lingering 
implication, well. I'm not sure what it 
would be. Certainly not memorable or 
convincing. 

Science fiction also tries to shock, 
both satirically and with various at- 
tempts at "daring" conlenL. You may 
remember the New Wave era I low 



Only 

BEGOTTEN 

DAUGHTER 




I Jill 1 1 — / ' 

MORROW 



1 inner of ihnNcbuii Award 



quaint and antique the shockers of 
that period seem today. Bug Jack Bar- 
ron is a creaking old jalopy, for all its 
undeniable dramatic power. The 
Dangerous Visions books contain 
some fine writing, but they are two 
wings of Harlan Ellison's Museum of 
SF. (And when The Last Dangerous 
Visions finally appears, it will hardly 
be the cutting edge of the field. It’ll be 
the Archaeology Annex.) 

The kind of shock SF delivers best 
is one of insight, the startling realiza- 
tion that, Yes, this might be true. IF/iy 
didn't I think of that? Thus, 1984 is an 
authentically shocking book, not at all 

jinal Science Fiction — July-August 




dated now that the Dread Year has 
passed, because it looks deeper into 
the uncomfortable recesses of the 
totalitarian mind than any other such 
novel. The boot in the face forever and 
ever and the principles of Newspeak 
are far more shocking than any Spin- 
radian sex scene. 

(I remember a lovely remark a fan 
1 made back when BJB first came out. 
This was, after all, the heyday of 
Philip Roth and Harold Robbins. "It's 
not that it's a dirty book; it's that it’s 
a dirty science fiction book!") 

In Lhe short, term, shock value does 
have its place. It is an opening flourish 
of trumpets. It yanks our attention in 
a given direction. But once the initial 
reaction has worn off, there has to be 
something more substantial present 
to hold our attention. 

Now let’s look at a couple of possib- 
ly shocking books: 

Only Begotten Daughter 

By James Morrow- 

William Morrow & Co., 1990 

312 pp., SI 9.95 

By way of shocks ... well, here's a 
book that would have been unprint- 
able a hundred years ago, and certain- 
ly banned in Boston fifty years ago. In 
Shakespeare’s time it would have got- 
ten the author executed, since, even 
though Elizabethan writers enjoyed 
considerable freedom, there were two 
no-nos, loosely defined by the courts 
as “treason and blasphemy." While no 
one to the left of Jesse Helms is likely 
to accuse Morrow of treason, the other 
matter is more open to question ... 
Michael Bishop is even quoted on the 
back of t.he jacket as saying that Only 
Begotten Duughter “does for tradition- 
al Western theology what Rushdie’s 
The Satanic Verses does for Islam." 

The difference, of course, and the 
reason James Morrow probably won't 
have to go into hiding, even though 

Copyright © 1990 by Darrell Schweitzer 

1990 



Books 







he’ll gain few admirers in Fundamen- j 
talist circles, is that here in the West j 
we have a tradition of making light of j 
religious matters. God-and-the-Devil | 
fantasies have been part of the stand- j 
ard storyteller's repertoire for a very j 
long time. Salman Rushdie never j 
even went as far as Mark Twain, who ! 
suggested over and over again that j 
God was not only a Bad Parent but a 
Malign Thug. We take it in stride. 
When this sort of theological fantasy 
blossomed in the works of James 
Branch Cabell, nobody tried to ban 
Jurgen on the grounds it was blas- 
phemous, but instead on account of 
the ... er ... S*X, allusions to which are 
so vague that a modern reader is like- 
ly to miss them. 

So, while making fun of God may 
still have some satirical force left to it, 
the effect is, indeed, no more than a 
blast of trumpets. “Hey! Look at me!" 

Whereupon the author has to 
deliver something more. This is 
precisely where and why Only Begot- 
ten Daughter succeeds, why it is an 
outstanding, possibly even great, fan- 
tasy. We may be witnessing the birth 
of a classic, folks. So stick around. 

The premise could arouse some 
sniggering: Julie Katz, the younger 
sister of Jesus Christ, is miraculously 
conceived in an Atlantic City sperm 
bank, rescued by her father (an ec- 
centric hermit befriended by a 
matronly lesbian) before crazed Fun- 
damentalists blow up the sperm bank, 
and raised under the strict injunction 
that she not show off her miraculous 
powers. Why? Because her Jewish 
Dad has read the New Testament for 
the first time and knows perfectly wel 1 
what happens to would-be messiahs. 

But, alas, the Devil persuades 
Julie to cure one particular blind boy 
— the son of the Rev. Billy Milk, the 
same Fundamentalist who blew up 
the sperm bank, and a favorite of the 
Devil’s because of his enormous 
capacity for self-righteous evil. Sure 
enough, this persuades the Rev. Milk . 
of the rightness of his mission: noth- | 
ing less than the destruction of At.lan- I 
tic City (the Babylon of Revelations) j 
and the construction of the New j 
Jerusalem on the site. Julie inter- 
venes only after large numbers of 
casino patrons have been burned to 
death, then adjourns to Hell for twen- 
ty years, where she meets, among 
other people her brother Jesus. It 
seems there are exactly four people in 
Heaven, since Hell claims anyone who 1 



anyone else ever thought should go 
there. The afterlife is meaningless 
torment. God, who is perhaps incom- 
patible with a universe of matter, does 
not intervene. Julie returns to Earth, 
where she is gorily crucified in the 
horrific theocracy Rev. Milk's New 
Jersey has become. 

And that’s not all .... 

This is a complex, serious book, 
which challenges the whole nature of 
religious belief. Morrow’s “Bible 
Stories for Adults” series has touched 
on such matters, but never gone into 
such depth. Only Begotten Daughter 
j is, indeed, shocking, not in its hcreti- 
! cal set-up, but in its insistence that 
| religion, to be worthy of human belief, 

| should be amenable to reason, and 
that. God should measure up to human 
moral standards. Here we are back in 
Mark Twain territory, with God as the 
malign thug, but with a difference. 



! Twain insisted that mankind was in- 




ferior to the “high animals,” i.e., the 
beasts, because of his moral sense. 
Morrow says that moral sense is our 
salvation, and that God and the godly 
shouldn't be allowed to commit all 
manner of atrocities the rest of us 
couldn't ever get away with. 

Julie Katz goes to her execution 
preaching science and reason, not 
righteousness. 

The additional richness of this 
book is that it is, in the standard 
sense, a good novel. It is drama, not a 
cartoon, as often moving or even hor- 
rific as it is amusing. For instance, the 
scene in which Julie’s father dies of a 
heart attack and she is unable to raise 
him back to life precisely because he 
has trained her all her life not to per- 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 



i 



form miracles is genuinely touching. 
The characters are real, not mere 
caricatures. The strength of the novel 
is ultimately as a vision, as was his 
previous This is the Way the World 
Ends, which gained enormous power 
in its final, stark chapters after the 
Alice-in-Wonderland political satire 
was over. 

Each of Morrow’s novels, now, has 
been a distinct advance over the pre- 
vious one. This is the best yet. So, Jim, 
what are you going to do next? I wait 
eagerly. 

Rating: •(VtVtVtVsV 



! Moon Dance 

By S.P. Somtow (Somtow 
Sucharitkul) 

Tor, 1989 
564 pp., $24.95 

Here we are in for shocks of a more 
| conventional sort. This is a Horror 
j Novel in Big Epic Terms, sort of a 
werewolf version of Little Big Man, in 
which a woman writer, hoping to 
j write a sensational book of the lleller- 
I Skelter variety about the once dread, 
j now octagenarian Laramie Ripper, 
uncovers a vast tale of European 
werewolves moving to the American 
West and coming into conflict with 
(benevolent) Native American 
werewolves. Any description of this 
book sounds like copy for an old-time 
spectacle movie: world-wide settings, 
a vast array of exotic characters, bat- 
tles, adventures, blood and gore, 

I sex .... 

Much of it is very well done, too, but 
I it has the feel of an old-fashioned spec- 
! tacle movie (not so much, in this 
I sense, Little Big Man with werewol- 
ves, but How the West Was Won with 
werewolves). That is, it’s very enter- 
taining but not quite gripping, a tad 
cliched, not quite real. The exception 
to this are scenes in which Sucharit- 
j kul (who writes very well about 
children) describes the tender, 
strained, very difficult relationship 
i between a French governess and the 
disturbed and abused child who is 
j both a multiple personality and a 
; werewolf (and will grow up to be the 
Laramie Ripper). In these scenes, the 
book hints it could be far more than it 
presently is. Even the prose loses its 
pulpish breathlessness. There are 
fewer exclamation points. 

But the book also gives me intima- 
tions of mortality, not of my own mor- 
tality, I hasten to explain, but that of 

■990 '7 



Books 



' the splatterpunk school of horror fic- 
tion. The one great limitation of the 
splash-and-barf aesthetic as 
pioneered by Clive Barker and others 
(and by Sucharitkul, whose 1984 
Vampire Junction is held to be the 
prototype of the later Movement — 
which gives you some idea of how 
transitory these Movements are) is 
that once you have Shown It All, there 
is indeed nothing left to show. The 
shock value is gone. One more severed 
head here and there isn’t going to 
bring it back. 

Something is clearly wrong when I 
find myself completely unmoved by 
passages like this: 

We’ve all seen too many Fangoria 
photos, too many slasher movies. 
Evisceration doesn’t horrify anymore, 
particularly in a book like this, where 
the author keeps trying to top himself. 

The answer, of course, is that the 
writer has to fall back on the story. 
Sucharitkul manages to do that. He 
keeps us reading. His powers of inven- 
tion are considerable. The descrip- 
tions are convincing most of the time, 
for all that I never did figure out (page 1 
9) how the snow could be “bloody in 
the sunset" when in the same para- 
graph the narrator says it's snowing 
so hard she can hardly see. The char- 
acters sometimes flicker into reality 
for a while. The background lore and 

... My hands slid down to touch his 
chest. They met something wet and 
slippery ... The blanket moved and I 
saw that Preston’s abdomen had been 
ripped open. His intestines, tangled, 
steaming, protruded from the open- 
ing. I stepped back. The blanket fell to 
the floor. I saw that his penis had been 
cut off. I realized that it was lying on 
the nights tand, next to the candle- 
holder. It had been there the whole 
time, but it had never occurred to me 
that it was what it was. 

(p.38) 

the settings, both European and 
American (particularly the scenes 
among the Indians), are interesting 
and convincing. 

So Moon Dance is a splashing spec- 
tacle movie in prose, which you will 
enjoy at least once. 

Rating: tVtVt-V 

No Need to Shock 

Tehanu, the Last Book of Earthsea 
By Ursula K. Le Guin 
Atheneum, 1990 
228 pp„ $15.95 



Here, by contrast, is a book that 
will shock no one, but. may ultimately 
disturb many. Ursula Le Guin told me 
(in an interview that is forthcoming in 
the revived Science Fiction Review) 
how this book came to her after so 
| many years. She had put aside a start 
j of the fourth Earthsea book long 
j before, because it didn't seem to know 
I where it wanted to go. Then, more 
J recently, she was reading a Spanish 
| translation of A Wizard of Earthsea to 
j keep her Spanish alive, and the book 
| started coming. She described the 




writing of it as "like flying." There had 
always been an incompleteness in the 
Trilogy as a trilogy. That is, there is a 
story about a young man (Ged in A 
Wizard of Earthsea), a young woman 
(Tenar in The Tombs of Atuan), an old 
man (Ged again, in The. Farthest 
Shore), and it only seemed fitting that 
there should also be a story about an 
old woman. 

So, Tehanu takes up the story of 
Tenar again. She is now in her fifties, 
a widow with a grown son, and has 
lived as a farm wife for many years. 
Ged returns to her on the back of a 
dragon, exhausted, no longer a mage, 
ashamed of his weakness. Meanwhile 
Tenar has adopted an abused, horrib- 
ly fire-scarred little girl, about whom 
it is prophesied, “they shall fear her.” 

Fans of the previous Earthsea 
books may be, at first, disappointed. 
Tehanu is not an epic. There are no 
adventures. All of the action takes 
place on a single island. The story is 
brooding, introspective, and domestic; 
about death, limitations, and coming 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 



! to terms with loss. Much of the physi- 
: cal conflict exerts itself in brutaliiy 
i rather than gallantry. When the new 
! King of Earthsea conies searching for 
i Ged (but, as the epilogue to The Far- 
| thest Shore told, does not find him) we 
j are afforded a glimpse: of the more 
| romantic world of the typical High 
: Fantasy, of which Tenar and Ged can 
i no longer partake, 
i The results are thematically com- 
j plex and a little puzzling. I left this 
I book with the feeling that, yes, this is 
. superbly written and utterly convinc- 
! ing, at times very moving, but the 
I legion of Le Guin critics are going to 
j generate quite a few articles explain- 
j ing what it all means. 

Rating: tVvVtVtV 

i 

| Noted: 

The Great and Secret Show 

By Clive Barker 
! Harper & Row, 1990 

! 550 pp., $19.95 

Here, as in his earlier Weaveworld, 

• the original gory bad boy of horror, 

. from whom the “Splat Pack" certainly 
; drew its inspiration, shows what to do 
! when the audience has gotten tired of 
j severed heads and dripping intes- 
! tines. It. was evident, too, in Barker's 
] movie Hellraiser (but not in the se- 
j quel, which he did not direct): once the 
j shock effects wear thin, there has to 
: be a coherent plot to keep things 
j going. The stage beyond shock is 
j simply story. 

The Great and Secret Show is ap- 
I parently the first volume of a vast new 
; epic, rather in the mold of The Stand, 

| in which good md evil of Lord of the 
' Rings proporP-ms manifest them- 
selves in the lives of ordinary people 
I in contemporary settings. But Barker, 
! you can be sure, is too inventive to 
I keep things ordinary for very long. 

' His conflict begins when a rather vi- 
. cious postal clerk discovers the secret 
of Just About Everything in the Dead 
! Letter Office in Omaha, Nebraska: a 
: paranoid conspiracy worthy of The 
j Crying of Lot 49, and, behind that, a 
; mystic "sea of dreams” outside our 
: physical reality. Suddenly this clerk 
: has big plans, but he is a rotten, petty 
i soul, so he works great evil. Opposing 
him is a drugged-out, failed-yet-still- 
brilliant scientist who has isolated the 
essence that makes creatures evolve 
1 into higher forms. He tries to destroy 
| this, realizing the potential for harm 

"i 990 



8 



Books 



in the hands of his employer, the 
aforesaid former postal clerk. But the 
Stuff (called Nuncio ) has ideas of its 
own, and Armageddon seems on the 
horizon. 

This is a very big, baroque fan- 
tasy/horror novel, which shows signs 
of maturity well beyond first-level 
shocks. Stephen King once said that 
in horror, first you try to terrify, then 
you try to horrify, and if that doesn’t 
work, go for the gross-out. Well, the 
gross-out may no longer be possible, 
and Barker, even though he remains 
as uninhibited as ever, seems to know 
that. 

Rating: 'Crft'fr'Ct 

From Satire to Subversion: The 

Fantasies of James Branch Cabell 

By James D. Riemer 

Greenwood Press, 1990 

106 pp., $35.00 

James Branch Cabell had a 
remarkable career, first as the author 
of indifferently received medieval 
romances which, as the artist Howard 
Pyle correctly discerned, didn’t show 
“proper reverence" to the idealized 
Middle Ages of the popular literature 
of the day. (And, I would say, still 
popular in modem generic. fantasy.) 
Cabell rapidly found out who was 
more important: when Pyle refused to 
illustrate any more of his books, the 
publisher dropped him. But then Jur- 
gen became the subject of the biggest 
banning controversy before Ulysses. 
Suddenly Cabell was a best-seller, the 
darling of liberal intellectuals, and, 
within a few years, a “classic," 
reprinted by Modem Library, and a 
possible Nobel Prize candidate. The 
party line has been revised since, but 
quite possibly it was Cabell, not 
Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or Faulkner, 
who ruled the literary roost during 
the Jazz Age. But then the Depression 
came along. Fantasy, no matter how 
satirical or risque, was out, and 
Cabell's rocket came down as a burnt 
stick. 

All of this could not help but rein- 
force that very cynicism which, says 
Prof. Riemer, is the essence of his art. 
Certainly Cabell defined fantasy in 
American literature for a long time. 
As late as the dustjacket of Stranger 
in a Strange Land (1961) we find the 
adjective “Cabellesque” used without 
any need for explanation. His in- 
fluence was enormous, and his 
reputation has refused to die utterly. 
Books 



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Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



Books about him still come out, one 
every few years. His Letters appeared 
in 1975. Only his fantasy novels sur- 
vive, though, having enjoyed oc- 
casional paperback revivals. He has 
never been popular, at least not since 
the public gave up on the idea that to 
read Cabell was deliciously 
“naughty.” 

The thesis of the present book is 
that Cabell was a subversive writer, 
who differed from such “High Fan- 
tasy” writers as William Morris, or 
Tolkien, in that he didn’t so much 
escape into a secondary world as chair 
lenge our whole conception of such 



worlds, or of our own reality. It’s an 
intelligent analysis, worth reading, 
even though the high price will send 
most readers to university libraries 
rather than bookstores. I’m glad to see 
that Cabell is still read, and even un- 
derstood in the context of other fan- 
tasy. While this book is for the more 
than casual reader, it isn't hopelessly 
academic either. Riemer only very 
rarely lapses into vaguely post-Struc- 
turalist/Deconstructionist jargon, but 
even then he never loses the sense of 
what he’s saying. 

Rating: tYAriY 



LBoh Hubbard 

AUTHOR OF 23 NATIONAL BESTSELLERS 



“REMEMBER how you felt the first time you 
saw STAR WARS? This 
book will do it to you 
again.” 

— ORSON SCOTT CARD 

If you liked the adventure of 
the Indiana Jones sagas, 
the excitement of Lethal 
Weapon and the sinister 
drama of Batman, you’ll love 
MISSION EARTH, the block- 
buster by master storyteller 
L. Ron Hubbard. 



"Marvelous satire by a master of 
adventure. " — Anne McCaffrey 





10 volume 
hardback set: 



The biggest bestselling 

Science Fiction dekalogy* ever written! 



The Bogart Revival 

By Joel Henry Sherman 

Art by Charles Lang 



S ome people run on money, others on recognition. I 
Brent Colby had both and didn't give a damn about 
either. The house in Palos Verdes, the Mercedes, the wife 
and requisite divorce; he'd accepted each with indif- 
ference and kept working, driven by his religious 
fanaticism to see an imagined concept become reality. 
Bogart’s revival wasn’t born out of greed; it was a revela- 
tion. And Brent had no more control over events than had j 
Martin Luther after he’d envisioned his ninety-five f 
theses. 

On Wednesday nights, we always made a pilgrimage i 
to the old Metropole Theater to cleanse ourselves in the I 
purity of flickering black and white. In that sanctuary of } 
frayed velvet and flaking paint, inhaling the incense of 
popcorn burning in rancid oil, the three of us escaped our 
individual realities. Whitney Hargrave mouthed lines 
along with Joan Crawford or Bette Davis, forgetting pend- 
ing auditions and casting calls. Brent Colby left his 
designing job at Data works Software folded away as neat- 
ly as the brown knit tie in the top drawer of his desk. I hid 
from my word processor. The denizens of the silver screen 
expected no excuses. 

We came out of the Metro together, huddling beneath 
Whitney’s umbrella to escape a chilling drizzle. The gray 
sidewalks gleamed under the street lights; sparse crowd 
drifting along the empty avenue. 

“Great flick.’’ Brent wiped the moisture from his glas- 
ses. "Don’t make them like that any more.” 

“In twenty years,” Whitney countered, “we’ll be calling 
today’s films classics." They had been arguing the relative 
merits of new and old films for years, the debate as much 
a part of the Wednesday ritual as two-dollar Cokes and 
boxes of Junior Mints. 

"Oh sure. Swamp Murderer was a tour de force.” He 
mouthed the title of her most recent acting credit as if it 
tasted of mud and leeches. “Classic films are the result of 
genius, a gestalt of acting, directing, and writing. I don’t 
think that genius exists anymore.” 

“What about Kurosawa? Altman? Spielberg? I suppose 
Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep are amateurs?” 

“Huston could out-direct any of them. Bogart could act 
circles around anybody living today.” 

“I started a script for Bogart once,” 1 said, assuming my 
role of peacemaker. “Kept seeing him in every scene 
though he’d already been dead for years.” 

“My point exactly,” Whitney said. "Your old celluloid 
heroes are gone, Brent. Living talent is the only game in 
town. Unless, of course, you've got some hidden ability for 
resurrection.” 

Brent opened his mouth as if to reply and stopped. 
Whitney and I continued on to the car. 

“Coming?” 

He shook his head. 

“Stop pouting," Whitney called, sliding into the front 
seat. 

10 



"You go on,” lie said absently. "A walk will do me good." 
I recognized the look on his face, remembering how it 
felt when creativity swept over like a cresting wave. He 
moved away, his mind already a dozen miles distant. 

Hating him slightly, I slipped in beside Whitney. We 
sat and watched him until the night swallowed his slow- 
moving form. 

T hadn't, written a decent sentence in two years. Block- 
-®-ed solid; the writer's number-one nightmare. I’d al- 
ways thought of writer's block in terms of sweat and 
frustration, chain-smoking fools surrounded by drifts of 
crumpled bond. In reality. I maintained mv schedule, 
rolling out of bed at five in the morning lo shower and 
shave, breakfast with a copy of Variety , in the study by 
seven. 1 just didn't write. There was always one more 
small job to finish before starting, one last bit of research, 
another book to read. So the hours passed. 

The guilt never hit until late afternoon, too late to get 
started. And every evening, as 1 stood before the liquor 
cabinet and poured my first tumbler of scotch, 1 promised 
myself I’d be ready to write in the morning. 

The house was quiet on Thursday. Whitney was in the 
Mojave Desert for a week of shooting on a roeket-and- 
blaster flick. Cast as an alien amazon, she had been 
stomping through the house; for a month spouting pidgin 
j Knglish in a bizarre dialect, and I missed her voice. 

Manny Solslein had made his obligatory call. Some- 
where along the line we’d ceased being agent and client 
and become friends. He didn’t ask for scripts anymore, 
calling once a week just to make certain 1 hadn’t drunk 
myself into a coma. We schmoozed about old times and 
J his health, skirting my block as if dancing around a pile 
of broken glass. 

1 was completing a course proposal for a local college. 
Teaching was easier than writing, and the money wasn’t 
j too bad. The phone rang as I was typing out the last 
paragraph of the course description. During the past two 
j • years I'd learned to nurse- a telephone call for hours. It 
helped make the day pass, made it. feel like I was working. 
“Jimbo?” Brent's voice was edged with coffee and am- 
| phetamines. I imagined him hunched over his desk amid 
a litter of paper plates and sandwich scraps, brown apple 
; cores wedged between towers of books and old magazines, 
| smoke curling up from an untouched cigarette. 

| “Calling from jail, or did you make it home last night?” 
“Still got that partial sci •ipt you did for Bogart?” 
“Somewhere." 1 thought, of the slack of boxes in my 
| garage filled with file folders and yellowing papers. 

”1 need it. Drop it by as soon as you can." 

And then 1 was bolding a dead receiver. 

I would have ignored him and continued working, if I’d 



Copyright © 1990 by Joel Henry Sherman 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



Bogart Revival 




BRENT COLBY 
w JAMES SHERMAN 
WHITNEY HARGRAVE 



Screenplay by JOEL H. SHERMAN Directed by BRENT COLBY 

a CHARLES RYAN Production 
Art Direction by CHARLES LANG 




been writing. But I was blocked, and the thought of 
spending a few hours in the garage rummaging through 
old papers seemed much more productive than sitting at 
the screen and churning out bad prose. 

I stopped at the refrigerator to grab the last three cans 
of beer and, swinging them by their plastic webbing, 
headed out into the stifling heat of the garage. 

I t took Brent five minutes to answer his door. A sales- 
man, even a missionary, would have moved on to 
greener pastures. But after four years as college room- 
mates and ten as friends, I’d had plenty of experience with 
his habits and knew that Brent was deaf when he was 
working. So I leaned on the bell, pounding with my free 
hand loud enough to disturb the neighbors across the 
street. 

An odor of rotten food and stale smoke poured from the 
interior when the door finally swung open. Brent stared 
at me from the threshold, eyes distorted behind his thick 
lenses, hair and beard snarled. 

“You got it,” he said, recognition dawning in his slack 
features. He grabbed the sheaf of papers from my hands. 
“Thanks.” 

“Hey.” I jammed my foot in the door. “You want to tell 
me what this is all about?” 

“Not yet. But if it works, you’ll be part of it. Full 
partnership.” He glanced at the script. “Finish this as soon 
as you can. I’ll be in touch." 

“Finish it? No problem, it’s not like I’ve been blocked 
or anything.” But my sarcasm was wasted. He had al- 
ready closed the door and left me staring at faded wood 
grain and peeling varnish. 

On my way back to the car, I mulled over the script. It 
was good work, only four scenes, but the fifth came boiling 
up out of my brain as I slid the key into the ignition. 

I went straight into the study when I got back to the 
house, no detour by the bar or liquor store. There was no 
rending crack as the block shattered. I simply touched my 
fingers to the keys and the words began to flow. 

T wo weeks passed without a word from Brent. He 
missed two cinema nights: The Gazebo and The 
Seven-Year Itch. Unfamiliar with his working binges, 
Whitney wanted to stop by to make certain he wasn’t 
dead. But I remembered when Brent had hammered out 
Office works, the program that made his fortune. I went 
twenty-seven days without seeing him, and we were shar- 
ing a house out in Redondo. 

They were glorious weeks for me — eight hours a day 
at the computer, the words racing from my head. It was 
one of those rare fits of creativity when the script seemed 
to write itself and I was just recording the words. Whitney 
brought my meals. I stayed dry. 

Colby’s silence finally cracked on Tuesday night. We 
were already in bed, Whitney reading lines for an upcom- 
ing audition while I gave her the cues. 

“I’ll be damned,” I said, recognizing his smoker’s hack. 
“Brent Colby lives.” 

“Barely.” He coughed again. “You busy tomorrow 
night?” 

“Classic film night. Here Comes Mister Jordan is at the 
Metro.” 

“Skip it. The show’s at my place. Six-thirty.” 

“What’s playing?” 



He paused for a moment, a long silence in which 1 
wondered if he’d heard me. “Bogey,” he said finally. 
“Humphrey Bogart.” 

r I 'wo years of marriage and another ten of transient 
female occupation had furnished Brent's house in a 
bizarre melange of contemporary and traditional decor. 
Waterford crystal lamps squatted on Scandinavian end 
tables. Bean-bag chairs competed for space with a pair of 
leather wingbacks and a coffee table fashioned from an 
antique door. One wall was a solid expanse of electronic- 
hardware, microprocessors, and CRTs scabbed to a projec- 
tion television, a stereo, and a bank of speakers. 

Every flat surface was littered with the detritus of his 
lifestyle: magazines and research papers, software 
manuals, crumpled cigarettes studding overflowing 
ashtrays like punk flower arrangements. The stench of 
smoke and dirty laundry made it seem as if the place was 
filled with a thin liquid rather than air. Whitney stepped 
around the debris as if walking through a mine field. 

Brent was casual in a pair of faded USC gym shorts 
and Hawaiian shirt, red hair slicked back. He’d cleared a 
space between the riveted steel plates on the coffee table 
for dinner — Chinese food in white cardboard cartons. We 
ate from the packages. 

“Now,” I asked around a mouthful of fried rice. “What’s 
this all about?” 

“I think you’ll recognize it.” 

Grinning, Brent snagged the remote control from atop 
a pyramid of Popular Mechanics and activated the VCR. 
Light flickered on the projection television, a silhouette 
appearing in profile. The figure struck a match and 
brought it up to a cigarette dangling loosely in the corner 
of his mouth, camera zooming for a tight facial shot. 
Humphrey Bogart stared down from the screen. 

For fifteen minutes, I watched Bogart move through 
the opening scenes of my script, listening to my words in 
his mouth. When the screen finally faded to black, I 
swallowed a lump in my throat and remembered how to 
breathe. 

“Who was that?” I whispered. 

"Bogart.” Brent smiled slowly. 

“Hell of an impersonation." I shook my head. "Where'd 
you find him?” 

“I made him.” His teeth gleamed. “It/s a simulacrum. 
Software mostly. Some improved graphics hardware too. 
An amalgamation of Bogart.” 

“A rather elaborate parlor trick," Whitney said, choos- 
ing her words carefully. Her face was pale. 

“No magic.” Brent spread his hands, his heavy-lidded 
eyes alive with animation. “I did massive research. 
Crammed every scrap of information I could find on 
Bogart into the software to create a Bogart identity. Using 
it, the computer makes a judgment on the delivery of 
every line, the positioning of the face, the sneer, the smile 
... everything. Any visual action or verbal expression." 

“But what good are fifteen minutes of a dead actor 
mouthing lines from a movie which never existed?” 

“My God, Whitney,” Brent said, pouring us all a second 
drink. “Think of the films you can make. Team Bogart and 
Dustin Hoffman. Meryl Streep and Ray Milland. 
Anybody. Don’t you see what that’s worth?” When he 
looked up, his eyes were watery and distant. "Can you 
finish the script?” 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



12 



Bogart Revival 



* 

I nodded. “Almost done. Another two, maybe three 
weeks." 

“We’ll need a cast list so I can work up identity pack- 
ages.” Brent glanced at Whitney. “I thought you could 
help with that. We could use your expertise.” 

“I don’t think so.” She stood and brushed the wrinkles 
from her dress. “I really should be leaving." 

"You okay?” I saw the tension of an approaching 
migraine in her face. 

“I’ve got an audition in the morning. I should be study- 
ing my lines instead of wasting my time on your little 
game.” She pecked my cheek and managed a brave smile. 
"1 know my own way out, Brent. Good night.” 

We were selecting the cast before the click of her heels 
across the tile portico had faded into silence. 

W hitney was invisible during the following week, 
leaving in the early morning and returning late. I 
was working steadily, sixteen-hour days, ignoring sleep 
and hunger, scenes appearing like technicolor blossoms 
inside my skull. And then one evening, I looked up to find 
her on the couch, knees tucked up against her chest, steely 
eyes watching me. 

"Are you ever coming to bed?” 

“Not yet.” I tapped the keys. “Just a few more hours 
and I’ll be finished." 

“Me too,” she whispered. 

“What’re you talking about?” 

Whitney took a deep breath as if about to plunge into 
dark, cold water. “Do you know what the studios will do 
with this?” 

“Buy it, I hope.” 

“How do I compete against Bette Davis or Marilyn 
Monroe?” Her face was pale, eyes red-rimmed. “Why take 
a chance with a new star when the studios can generate 
proven genius with a computer?” 

“Is that what’s been eating you? Come on, Whitney. 
They’ll always need live talent.” 

“What makes you so damn sure?” She choked back a 
sob. “Right now you’re just resurrecting old masters, but 
how long before someone starts creating new faces from 
bits and pieces of the old? Bogart with a little Spencer 
Tracy and some A1 Pacino thrown in for effect?” Tears 
glistened on her cheeks. “How can you do this to me?” 
“Do what to you?” Rage and fury suddenly erupted 
within me, all the frustration of the past two years spilling 
out. Her eyes grew wide as I lurched from my desk. “You 
and your goddamned insecurities! For two years, I’ve sat 
and stared at this screen, spent every evening drinking 
myself into a stupor, wanting so damned desperately to 
write but unable to find any words. That’s hell, babe. I’ve 
been living it. 

“Finally, I’ve broken through the wall. I’ve got a project 
and I’m working. I’m sleeping nights instead of drinking 
myself to death. I’m happy. And you’ve got the frigging 
nerve to come in here and dump your guilt in the middle 
of my lap.” I breathed deeply, trying to clear my head of 
the need to slap her pale, tear-streaked face. “What about 
my career? The well’s running dry. I can’t afford to miss 
this chance." 

“Can't you?” She rose slowly from the couch. “Maybe 
you’d better look a little closer, Jimbo. Maybe you’d better 
think again, before it’s too damned late for all of us.” She 
stalked from the room. 

14 



For a while I heard her upstairs slamming drawers and 
closet doors. I drowned out her movements with the 
steady click of the keys. 

When I went up a few hours later to sleep, she was 
gone. 

TV/Tanny Solstein brushed a hand through his thin- 
-^■"■^-ning hair and set his pipe in an ashtray as we 
entered his office. The smell of leather and tobacco always 
made me think of Manny and contracts, the scent of 
business. 

“Jimmy.” His voice rasped softly, his dark eyes scan- 
ning me quickly for signs of drinking and despair, reading 
my face like a manuscript. Whatever he saw made him 
smile. “It’s been a long time.” 

"Thanks for seeing me." 

“Hey. You put a few bucks in my account. I got a long 
memory. Want a drink?” 

1 shook my head. 

“Good for you. Been writing again?" 

“Yeah.” I nodded toward Brent. “This is Brent Colby. 
We’ve got a little proposition for you. Something dif- 
ferent.” Brent slid the video tape toward him. 

Manny held it in his hands as if weighing it could 
somehow tell him whether or not it was worth his time. 
He reached over and keyed the intercom. "Hold my calls. 
I’m in conference.” The he spun his chair and opened a 
credenza to reveal a VCR. “Let’s see what you got.” 

Two hours later, Manny was on the phone to Fox. 

I called her sister in Modesto. She denied Whitney was 
there, but we’d played this game before. After fifteen 
calls, she got tired of lying to me and put Whitney on the 
phone. 

“Hello.” She sounded much farther away than a few 
hundred miles. 

“I want to see you.” 

She was silent. 

“I said a few things.” I groped for the words. “We were 
both pretty upset. I’d been working too hard. But I love 
you, Whitney.” 

“You don’t understand." 

“Come home and make me understand. Babe, the 
project sold to Fox. The bad times are over. Just good 
times ahead. And I want you with me.” I took a deep 
breath. “We’re having a celebration at the California Club 
tonight. Eight sharp. Please come. 1 love you." I broke the 
connection before she could protest, certain she would 
show. 

She didn't disappoint me. 

\J\T hitney entered the restaurant with her hair and 
* r * make-up perfect, looking every inch as tough and 
glamorous as Barbara Stanwyck. Brent generated one of 
his patented disarming smiles as he turned toward her 
and raised his glass of champagne. "You’re late." 

She drew the revolver from her bag in one fluid motion, 
a chunk of chromium steel and pearl in her small hands, 
her mouth forming a silent scream. The first bullet struck 
Brent in the forehead, throwing him into the next table. 
Startled patrons screamed, liveried waiters ducking for 
cover. I was rolling for the floor when her second shot 
slammed into my chest. 

I remember the pain, breath bubbling in my lungs, the 

Bogart Revival 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



Get Back Issues 



lights dimming and turning red, and Whitney’s bright, 
mad eyes as she placed the muzzle against her temple and 
calmly pulled the trigger. 

I spent ten days in intensive care, plastic tubes 
protruding from every orifice. Maybe it was my im- 
agination, or maybe the drugs pulsing through my system 
edited my memories, but somehow 1 reached the con- 
clusion that in her final moments, Whitney had lowered 
her aim from my face to chest and spared me in a final 
second of lucid judgment. I thought love had moved her 
hand, but then, hate is often mistaken for love. 

Manny came to see me as soon as they allowed visitors. 
He brought a plant and a magazine. 

“How you feeling, Jimmy?” Loosening his tie, he slid 
uncomfortably into the only chair. 

“Good enough to go home and start the rewrite for Fox. 
You know how it is with writers, working is so damned 
therapeutic." 

“You’re off it, Jimbo.” He stared at the floor. 

“What?” Sudden nausea churned in my guts. 

“They bought your option, but I made ’em pay. You 
won’t go hungry." 

“I don’t want their damned money. It’s my script, 
Manny. You understand? Mine!” 

"Not any more. They got this genius from Stanford to 
duplicate Colby’s work. You know the game. The producer 
has a hot new angle and Stanford thinks he can make it 
work.” 

“What the hell are you saying?” 

Manny shrugged helplessly, "They want a script by 
Ernest Hemingway.” □ 

Beat Those 
Baggie Blues 

We tried to entrust our precious magazine to the 
U.S. Postal Service without protective wrapping. 
For the second time, we found out the hard way that 
the Postal Service just doesn’t treat Aboriginal as 
gently as it deserves. So we have reinstated the 
protective plastic baggies. 

Those plastic baggies are an expense that isn’t 
factored into the subscription price, and a cost we 
really aren’t equipped to support without substan- 
tially more advertising. So we are asking for volun- 
tary contributions to offset the added cost. We could 
bill everyone an extra charge, but it would cost as 
much to mail bills as we’d expect to recoup, so we 
instead decided to use an honor system. It costs 
about $0.20 to bag and label each copy, or $1.20 for 
a six-issue subscription, $2.40 for a 12-issue sub- 
scription, and $3.60 for an 18-issue subscription. 
Please send your baggie payment to our regular 
mailing address. If you are renewing anyway, just 
add it to the renewal price, which we will be increas- 
ing next issue to cover the baggies. 

Thanks;, your cooperation is appreciated. 



While They Last 

OUR PREMIER ISSUES: The supply is limited, 
which is why we have to charge $4.00 each for copies of our 
first issues - they are already collectors’ items. Get your 
copies of the magazine that broke all the rules. Four-color 
illustrations by award-winning artists, stories by Hugo 
and Nebula winners. Find out why it’s called Aboriginal 
Science Fiction. Who is our crazy alien publisher? Book and 
movie reviews and more. 



Aboriginal No. 1 Orson Scott Card, Hal Clement, and John 
A. Taylor 

Aboriginal No. 2 Carl Lundgren, George Zebrowski, and 
Elizabeth Anne Hull 

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gleton, Kristine K. Rusch, and Dean Whitlock 

Aboriginal No. 4 and Aboriginal No. 5 ARE SOLD OUT 

Aboriginal No. 6 Ian Watson, Robert A. Metzger, Martha 
Soukup, and Emily Devenport 

Aboriginal No. 7 Steven R. Boyett, Patricia Anthony, and 
Rebecca Lee 

Aboriginal No. 8 Kristine K. Rusch, Ray Aldridge, and John 
E. Stith 

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and Chris Boyce 

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Phillip C. Jennings 

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Reed, and Patricia Anthony 

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Cox 

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Metzger 

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and Robert A. Metzger 

Aboriginal No. 16 Kir Bulychev, Patricia Anthony, and Robert 
A. Metzger 

Aboriginal No. 17 Larry Niven, Walter Jon Williams, Thomas 
A. Easton, Bill Johnson, Patricia Anthony 

Aboriginal No. 18 James Morrow, Esther Friesner, Ralph E. 
Vaughan, Phillip Jennings 

Aboriginal No. 19 Frederik Pohl, Frank Kelly Freas, George 
Alec Effinger, Bruce Bethke 

Aboriginal No. 20 David Brin, Frederik Pohl, Frank Kelly 
Freas, Jennifer Roberson, and Gregor Hartmann 

Aboriginal No. 21 Frederik Pohl, Richard Bowker, Patricia 
Anthony, Wil McCarthy, and Phillip Jennings. 

Act quickly. Send $4.00 plus $.50 for postage and 
handling for each copy you want to: Aboriginal 
Science Fiction, P.O. Box 2449, Woburn, MA 01888. 

Or order all 19 available copies for $69.00 and 
save $7.00, and we’ll pay the postage. 



Bogart Revival 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



15 



A Worldcon in Holland ? 



By Kees van Toora, Chairman, ConFiction 



livery year thousands of 
science fiction fans gather 
somewhere on the globe to 
celebrate the main event of the 
year: the World Science Fiction 
Convention. 

It is a tradition that started in 
1939 in New York. Then it at- 
tracted only a handful of people. 
The convention last year in Bos- 
ton had over seven thousand at- 
tendees. 

One of the most important fea- 
tures of this convention is undoub- 
tedly the Hugo Awards pre- 
sentation. Apart from that, the j 
worldcon offers five days of 
panels, discussions, an art show, 
a dealers’ room, videos, films, 
slide shows, endless parties of 
various groups, and, most impor- 
tant of all, an almost full week of j 
socializing and meeting with fel- 
low enthusiasts from around the 
world. 

Unlike other conventions, the 
unique concept is that the atten- 
dees choose who will host this 
event. Usually there is a fierce 
race among a number of cities — 
almost always in the English- 
speaking countries, and mostly in 
the United States. 

As a matter of fact, most of the 
World Science Fiction Conven- 
tions have been held in the United 
States ... but as you, the avid 
reader of SF, know. Science Fic- 
tion, and Fandom, especially, is 
something that catches you (it is 
seldom the other way around). 

Once you are hooked on Science 
Fiction and Fandom as a meeting 
point of people and a melting point 
of interests, it stays with you for 
the rest of your life. And it is so 
contagious, it does not stay con- 
fined to the United States. The 
result is an avid global Fandom i 
(the collective name of all fans j 
around the world) with smaller j 
regional conventions everywhere j 



in the world. But we are talking 
about the World Science Fiction 
Convention ... 

For me it all started well over 20 ; 
years ago — with Heicon, the 28th 
World Science Fiction Convention 
in Heidelberg, Germany. It was 
the first world event of this sort I 
attended — although in those 
days a “Worldcon" only had about 
600 attendees. It was an over- 
whelming experience to be able to 
meet people from different 
countries, to not only see your 
favorite authors in person but also 
join them for a drink, or have j 
lunch, dinner or breakfast with | 
them, talk about all sorts of 
things, and later meet them at 
other conventions. 

For me it was the start of many 
a good and lasting friendship. It 
also planted the seed for another 
world convention on the continent 
— if it would ever become possible 
again. After all, conventions be- 
! came bigger and bigger, it takes 1 
j quite some organization to make ! 
them work — and it remains a 1 

I 

labor of love for most people in- i 
volved. j 

Back in 1985 the concept of a | 
world convention in Europe be- 
came a possibility. To me the year 
1990 had a magic ring to it, as it 
would be twenty years after my 
first world convention in Heidel- 
berg. 

! Everybody on the committee j 
! worked hard, and we had a lot of : 
j support from all over the world. In j 
1987 we won the right to host the ; 
Worldcon in the Netherlands by | 
an overwhelming majority. j 

With only a few months before 
the actual event, it becomes clear 
that ConFiction (as we have called 
this 48th World Science P'iction 
Convention) will be a true inter- | 
national gathering of science fic- ! 
tion and fantasy readers from all 
over the world. i 



There are members from over 25 
countries. With the Wall down, a 
lot of Eastern Europeans may also 
come, and it ought to be a feast for 
all who come to The Hague in the 
Netherlands. 

The convention will of course 
have the Hugo Awards presenta- 
tion, as this is one of the main 
events, but it will also be a show- 
case for clubs and groups from all 
over the world. The dates are 
August 23rd to August 27th. An 
attending membership will cost 
$85 until July 15th, after that you 
must purchase a membership at 
the door for $100.00. For this you 
will get five days of international 
activities and a chance to hear our 
guests of honor Joe Haldeman, 
Wolfang Jeschke, and Harry Har- 
rison, as well as our fan guest of 
honor Andrew Porter and toast- 
mistress Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. 

Despite the enormous number of 
different nationalities, the official 
convention language will be 
English, although some of the pro- 
gram will feature topics in the 
“original” language of the par- 
ticipants — but in those cases an 
instant translation ought to be 
available. It will all add to the 
international flavor of a true 
world convention. 

Would you like to know more? 
Write to us directly or contact one 
of our U.S. agents: 

ConFiction 
PO Box 95370 
2509 CJ The Hague 
Holland 

Marc S Glasser 
Box 1251 

Bowling Green Station 
New York. NY 10274 

David Schlosser 
7324 Paso Robles Ave. 

Van Nuys, CA 91406 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



16 



Worldcon 





A Message From 



Human Beings 
Want to Be Free 



T I ^here is something basic hap- 
pening among the human 
beings. The Soviets have begun 
holding elections with competing 
parties on the ballot. Several 
countries in Eastern Europe have 
turned out their communist govern- 
ments. Latin American countries 
have shaken off military dictator- 
ships. Racist police states have 
freed political prisoners. 

Human beings everywhere are 
shooting their tyrants, tearing 
down their prison walls, and 
embracing democracy. All over this 
planet, the institutions of tyranny 
— from apartheid to Communism — 
are beginning to give way. Hardly a 
week goes by that does not see some 
news story about the advancement 
of human freedom. 

To understand any of this, you 
must understand human political 
systems. It is an undertaking about 
as useful as learning to inhale 
cigarette smoke or studying the 
command structure of MS-DOS. 
Nevertheless, studying is what I am 
here for, so I have tried to make 
some sense of current events. 

An encyclopedia or a civics 
textbook will tell you there are 
many ways of classifying human 
political systems. But most of them 
are laughable. Human beings draw 
fine distinctions between par- 
liamentary and presidential sys- 
tems, between state ownership and 
state regulation of the means of 
production, between unicameral 
and bicameral legislatures, and on 
and on and on. 

These descriptions, however, are 
not supposed to explain anything. 
They are there to provide a pretext 
for self-righteous discussion. Before 
the current reforms, for example, 
the Soviets had but. one political 
party in control of a completely 
authoritarian government, which 
the Americans roundly condemned 
at every opportunity. The 



Americans point proudly to their 
two-party system. But they rarely 
mention that this system, well-oiled 
money machine that it is, returns 99 
percent of the incumbents in every 
Congressional election. Everybody 
in America believes in free elec- 
tions, except the members of Con- 
gress, who all have a good bit of 
money behind them and believe 
elections ought to be as expensive as 
possible. As things stand now, the 
Soviet Politburo historically has a 
higher turnover than the U.S. Con- 
gress. 

As an outsider, I can take a more 
judicious view of human politics and 
point out to you there is only one 
kind of human government, statist. 
The organizing principle of statism, 
announced or tacit, is that the 
government owns its citizenry. In 
practice, government ownership of 
the citizenry is often mitigated by 
certain rights and protections 
guaranteed by charter — rights and 
protections that operate similarly to 
the laws on our planet against cruel- 
ty to flesnets. 

In the United States, they tried a 
different political system for a short 
time after 1789, but it never really 
took hold. People could not under- 
stand the idea that the government 
only has powers when they grant 
them. And, as time went by, 
Americans forgot about the 
republican system they had in- 
vented. They rejoined the rest of the 
world in believing power flows from 
the government to the citizens 
rather than the other way around. 
The American experiment is 
enshrined, as if in a glass case, by 
Amendment Number Nine of their 
Bill of Rights, the text of which 
modern Americans continue to 
publish but regard as a kind of 
curiosity. 

By tradition, however, the rights 
of Americans are broader than those 
of people in other statist countries. 



So the Americans have some jus- 
tification in considering themselves 
“free.” And they are sincere when 
they cheer for the world's oppressed, 
who struggle to trade authoritarian 
statism for more benevolent forms. 
The average American human 
being, for example, now tunes in the 
international news every day. He 
bathes in the televised images of the 
retirement of military dictators, the 
freeing of political prisoners, and 
the opening of heavily guarded bor- 
ders. The indomitable struggle for 
freedom is powerful emotional stuff, 
and the films of these events are 
being carefully preserved for use in 
the sale of soft drinks and designer 
jeans. 

Tyranny, you see, is not com- 
patible with soft drinks and desig- 
ner jeans — or small appliances, 
high-performance cars, and movies 
with happy endings. No political 
philosophy can stand against a 
people who have glimpsed paradise 
in the screen of a television or tasted 
the food of the Gods on a sesame 
seed bun. Build them a shopping 
mall, and they will never go back to 
censorship or arresting each other 
in the middle of the night. 

Americans celebrate the 
deliverance of the oppressed in the 
spirit of charity and target market- 
ing. The bywords of the day are 
“human rights” and “pent-up 
demand.” 

It is truly a grand time to be on the 
Earth. Nations everywhere are 
giving up identity papers, 
propaganda, secret police, and 
privileged oligarchies. What are 
they trading them for? Consumer 
credit, direct mail advertising, 
private data banks, and financial 
leverage. Human beings, you see, 
want to be free. □ 



Alien Publisher 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 



Birdbrain 

By Elaine Radford 

Art by David Brian 



H e strained his eyeballs at utter blackness, unable 
to think where or what he was. 

“Taylor? We’re going to take off the mask now. Don’t 
try to move. You can’t. We’ll take off the restraints once 
you’ve had your shot — ” I 

Restraints. Shot. Oh sweet Jesus he’d gone mad. All 
this futzing around with his head — 

The doctor’s hands gently lifted the eye-masks, as- 
saulting Taylor with sudden brightness. He blinked, not 
consciously registering the clear eyelids that dropped 
automatically Before each of his irises to cut the glare. , 
“Relax,” Lynen said, her gaze skittering off his face as | 
if it were made of glass. “Don’t move until you get your ; 
bearings." 

No need to move, anyway; he could see clear round the 
white room except for a maybe twenty-degree sliver 
directly in back of his skull. Gail Lynen loomed near him 
on his left, the clawlike hand that clutched the hypoder- 
mic unnaturally sharp, swelling to fill a full quarter of his 
visual field before it blurred out of focus. 

“Good boy,” Lynen muttered, as if she were addressing 
a child. Or an animal. 

Suspicion stung him more painfully than the injection. 

On Taylor’s right lounged Leo Kerr the ornithologist, a 
man as lean and unremarkable as a blade of grass. Some- 
thing didn’t compute. With one eye Taylor was looking at 
Lynen, with the other Kerr, and both were sharp and flat j 
as dolls scissored out of newsprint. 

He couldn’t think. The drug was working on him, 
guiding him toward sleep. His lids dropped of their own 
volition. Miles away somewhere, deft hands removed the 
restraints binding his body. 

“Easy, Taylor, easy," Lynen singsonged, her voice a 
hypnotist’s. “Sleep.” 

Dozing, he jerked erect abruptly, suddenly aware that 
he was balancing on one leg. In his sleep. 

Oh Christ! 

Fighting to regain his poise, he slipped and fell to his 
belly with a graceless plop. 

S ince banging along with the hook at the end of his 
upper mandible had resulted in a terrific migraine, 
he was forced to grasp a pencil with his bill, cock his head 
sideways, and jab at the terminal keyboard with an 
awkward bob of the neck — a tiring process. This being a 
bird is for the birds, he thought. 

•WHO’D I GET 

He debated adding a question mark and decided not to. 
The extra effort required was too daunting. 

“Want me to show you?" Too thoughtful to wait for the 
inevitable answer, Lynen hopped up and vanished 
momentarily behind the Japanese screen that so elegant- 
ly concealed the worst of the office clutter, returning with 
a good-sized three-way mirror that she set before him 
with a flourish. Taylor dropped his pencil and cocked one 
18 



eye at the glass. 

He saw a fine young male wandering albatross, a 
yearling to judge by the abundance of brown and gray that 
spotted his breast. Leopard spots, Kerr called them. 

K,” Kerr said. "Spread your wings.” 

Couldn't; for some reason, Taylor couldn't make 
himself perform the simple gesture, couldn’t figure out 
which muscles to flex. 

“Easy now. Maybe it'll help if you picture them as two 
great big two-meter fingers.” 

Two great big — yeah. Sure. But Lo Taylor’s surprise, 
his brain went for it. 

“OK. Open and close them a few times. Easy. Easy. 
Reaaalll slow. Good.” 

A knock on the frame of the open gymnasium door, then 
Taylor the man stepped diffidently inside. "Hey, big fel- 
low," he said, nodding at the bird. For a low-profile sort, 
he seemed falsely bright. The bird jerked away indignant- 
ly when the man reached down to scratch his head. 
“Interesting. I really couldn't picture being anyone other 
than myself. I mean, intellectually, sure, I know that’s me 
in there, but on a gut level — " He shook his head. 

The bird ached for speech, for the power to cut in on 
this blithering boob. 

“If you're me, big fellow, how come I don't, know what 
you’re thinking?" 

Taylor the albatross vomited up a solid lump of 
stomach oil, depositing it squarely in the man’s lap. Fig- 
ure it out, big fellow. 

I Jhvsical therapy and mind games. Sometimes they 
took all Taylor’s concentration, but mostly they 
were just tedious. That was good, that meant he was 
adjusting, but ... it left too much time for holding the 
tattered cloth of his mind up to the light to search for 
holes. 

* And holes he found. After all, they’d had to shrink his 
I mind into a volume one-eighth of the original before 
impressing it on the albatross forebrain — birds have no 
I cortex — and something was bound to get lost in the 
i translation. In all honesty, they’d done much belter than 
he’d expected. When Lynen had told him how much edit- 
ing the computer would have to do, he’d thought there 
would be nothing left. 

“There’s a lot of redundancy built into the brain.” she’d 
said. “It works out that it’s more efficient to store most 
information in several different places around your brain. 
When you have to recall something, your brain can find it 
faster because it has several chances to stumble over the 
! data, as it were.” 

Taylor chewed on the image of his mind stumbling 



Copyright © 1990 by Elaine Radford 

Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 




Birdbrain 




'around the inside of his skull like a drunk on his last 
bottle. 

“All we’re going to do is edit out the redundancy — " 
“So then I’ll be dumber, right?" 

She blinked at him coolly. “Not dumber. Just ... slower.” 
Was there a difference? Even if it wasn’t exactly going 
to be him and even if you didn’t exactly need Einstein’s 
brains to flap onto a Russky aircraft carrier in the shape 
of a bird ... even then, an operative kind of liked to have 
all his marbles. 

He was new to the base, nervous, suspicious, keenly 
aware of his status as an experimental animal. Hell, this 
place wasn't home anymore, not after thirteen years in 
Moscow ... How sick at heart he’d felt, realizing he was 
being recalled like a defective automobile after so many 
years. And yet he couldn't very well have expected to be 
a Russian forever. 

“No way is anybody going to open up my head,” he told 
her bluntly. “My ass has been on the line for Uncle long 
enough. This tour was supposed to be cake.” 

“ ’Course not, Taylor. Didn’t they tell you?” Lynen 
waved about the sterile room with its padded chair that 
reminded him of the dentist’s office doubling as a torture 
chamber. “All you have to do is sit right here while the 
scanner builds up a model of your brain.” 

He pointedly ignored the invitation to sit. 

“Wait a minute, npw, you just hold on. You’re going to 
X-ray my head every day for a year, eight hours a day, six 
days a week. Dream on, lady! I lety’all get away with that, 
I’ll have a tumor the size of a grapefruit in my head by 
spring.” 

“Relax, double-oh-seven. We aren’t out to kill you. No 
X-rays. I promise. We’ll be using a totally safe combina- 
tion of ultrasound, thermography, and nuclear magnetic 
resonance techniques for scanning, then we’ll combine 
and enhance the results in the computer. Your brain won’t 
be affected in the slightest.” 

“Yeah, yeah, the biggest danger is that my butt will get 
sore sitting around all the time — ” 

“Oh, bear with us, Taylor, I know it’ll get to be a bore 
real quick, but aren’t you kinda glad it’s slow?” She 
glanced around nervously, as if she knew about the bugs 
monitoring every room. "Can you imagine what sort of 
world we’d live in if they could read your mind in a flash, 



“What the hell,” he’d said. “I’ve been a Russian thirteen 
years. Now I’ll be a bird.” 

But he hadn’t known, not then, that he would truly be 
the bird, the copy, and that the man would be the other, 
i Forever. 

'I’aylor the man ducked into the bird’s quarters, his 

-■*- footsteps unusually light and quick for a fat man’s. 
The albatross, who hadn’t heard him coming, let out an 
involuntary squawk, and his counterpart barked out a 
single strangled curse. 

Then he strode past the perch above the tray of what 
amounted to kitty litter and picked up the cordless key- 
board that had become the bird’s voice. Pressing a finger 
to his lips, he stuck the device under his arm and walked 
out. 

Figure that out, big fellow, the bird thought, 
i Moments later the man was back, shutting the door 
behind him in a pantomime of secrecy. “Let’s talk.” 

The bird couldn’t point out that the conversation would 
be rather one-sided. 

The man drew up a metal folding chair and sat down. 
“Look, I know you can’t answer me this way, but I find it 
damn inhibiting having everything I say go into the bug 
in your terminal. A person likes a little privacy. Under- 
stand? Anyway, I think it’s time I got to know myself a bit 
better." 

Is it, now? And suppose I don’t want to know myself? 

“I’d like to find out how much of our life — ’’ He paused, 
caught on the grammar. “ — our lives you can remember.” 

The bird did a shruggy thing with his shoulders. 

“Can you nod for yes and shake your head for no? Can 
you do that?” 

The bird nodded once, wearily: Of course I can, you 
think I’m a frigging parakeet head? 

“Heard the word? My brain tape’s been screwed. When 
they load up the original, they get a bunch of what they 
call ‘checksum errors.’ ” 

Slow and dumb he might be, but T-bird could figure out 
that if the company was finding errors in the originals, it 
was because they were using them — probably to work on 
retrieving data from a copy of a human mind. He nodded, 
slowly, to show that he understood. 

“Yeah, you get it. Well, that’s over with, that's 



easy as snapping a photograph?” i through.” The man grinned briefly. “I would’ve waved a 

Taylor shuddered. j magic eraser over the abridged version, too, but I don’t 

And then he realized something almost as spooky. “My j know where it is. They’re using it ...." 
brains are going to be spread out all over the place for j The abridged version. That means me. 
anyone to pick over — ’’ “I need your help on this, but first I’ve got to know 

“That’s one thing I wouldn’t worry about. The only one something ...” A pause, the merest breath of hesitation, 

who’ll see all that stuff is this — ” She flicked a wrist at “Do you remember the phrase, ‘the one true religion’?" 

the wall, which was one cool metal side of the big com- Strange question, the bird thought. Belatedly, it came 

puter, “It would take decades — as long as you yourself to him that it must be a password ... one he couldn’t quite 

have lived, longer really — for a human being to root recall. He shook his head. 

through the sum total of your experience. Retrieval even The man sighed, a minute exhalation another human 

with the computer is an incredible problem. It would take . might not have heard, 

centuries for us to dig out something you didn’t want us 

to know.” “Y HE STIL ROUND 

Taylor frowned. Of course they’d try it anyway; hell, it “Taylor’s helping us check your memories, so we can 

was probably the whole reason the project got funded in understand where the process introduces changes.” 

the first place .... Lynen smiled, probably daydreaming of the paper she’d 

But what choice did he have? Less than two years away get out of this someday, when it was declassified. “Hell, 

from the twenty needed for full retirement, he couldn’t T-bird, where else can we send him anyway? He’s too close 

blow it now on that suspicion. And Uncle knew it. to the recycling date to be worth training for another 

Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



20 



Birdbrain 




mission. I didn’t expect you two to be so competitive. 
Sibling rivalry with the self ....” 

T-bird snorted. He couldn’t believe in their essential 
oneness anymore; maybe he never had. Something had 
gotten changed somewhere, changed and lost ... and he 
wasn’t sure he wasn’t better for it. 

He certainly had the physical edge; having survived 
the first difficult months of life, he could look forward to 
eighty more vigorous years. Eighty, because that was the 
lifespan of the wandering albatross; vigorous, because a 
bird didn’t live long in any other shape. For the man, life 
extension could keep him going damn near forever ... but 
T-bird wouldn’t have to worry about that now, about 
ending up on the machine, because when he sickened, he’d 
simply fall into the sea and die, free. 

T-bird could feel sorry for the man, when he thought 
about the physical. 

But the mental was something. To become a bird, he’d 
sacrificed seven-eighths of his mind, having left it to the 
damn computer to decide what to keep and what to throw 
away. And he couldn’t shake this feeling he’d lost some- 
thing vital, the very core of what his self was built around. 
•Y U FUTZ WITH MY ORIGINAL 
“Oh, Taylor, that’s exactly what you said, exactly what 
your human version said ....” 

So I’m predictable. He coughed threateningly. 

“You’ve known all along that the animal-spy operation 
is strictly a by-product, a way for us to get our brain-scan- 
ning techniques to pay for themselves before we’ve got 
them completely refined ....” 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

“It’s true what I told you, that we haven’t yet figured 
out a way to muck through the entire original and dig out 
specific bits of information. Hell, we can't even get what 
we want from your bird-brain ... but that doesn’t mean we 
aren’t still trying ....” 

To barge into brains. My brain. 

“ — to develop some kind of search routine that would 
pinpoint answers to our questions. Hell, T-bird, a develop- 
ment like this would make torture obsolete. Isn’t it worth 
sacrificing a little privacy for a goal like that?” 

T-bird couldn't recall any good reason to torture people 
anyway, but maybe the computer had edited that. 
•WHAT I SAY 

“You were not pleased,” she admitted. 

•MAKE IT UNANIMOUS. 

'I’-bird flew down the hall in triumph, only once graz- 
ing his scalp on the low ceiling, and skidded to a 
noisy halt outside Kerr’s office. I can fly! he thought, 
wishing that albatrosses could sing their joy. I can really 
fly! 

The commotion brought a laughing Kerr to his door. 
“That a scheduled landing?” 

He cawed victoriously, smoothed down a misplaced 
breast feather, and waddled on inside. 

That night, they celebrated, T-bird learning about the 
properties of cheap red wine — and about the drunken 
jokes he could no longer understand. There was an 
awkward moment. 

"Hey, what is this?” Taylor the man asked. “You sure 
he isn’t stupid or something?” 

“Because he’s lost some sexual slang?” Lynen said. “Oh, 
no, we edited that stuff on purpose. Hell, what would he 



iMasaiaaBM ^ . as® ^ , 

need memories of human sexuality for? They’d just take 
up space better spent on something else.” 

Taylor went red, then pale. “You deleted ... that ...?” 
“He’s a bird, Jake. We asked the computer to build a 
tapeworm to eliminate all memories of sex up to five levels 
of association. Recall of human arousal could only be 
frustrating — " 

"Five levels ...! What precisely does that mean in terms 
of what’s been deleted? Have you left him anything that 
makes a human a human? Even the memory of a face? 
This is the most incredible, the most obscene — ” 

“He's an underaged virgin, Jake, in no condition to miss 
what he’s never had — ” 

T-bird watched them quarrel, amazed. Did the man 
really care so much about him? Then why did he, the bird, 
feel so all alone? 

Kerr, standing on the sidelines, quietly filled T-bird in 
on “the birds and the bees.” T-bird couldn’t understand 
what the big fuss was all about. 

T -bird seriously considered defection as he dipped 
and dived among the gulls. Not to the Soviets, of 
course, nor to any agency under human control. 

But to the sky. 

Who could stop him if he glided headlong into the 
Antarctic to join a flock of wanderer youngsters in their 
first circuit around the pole? Who would pursue him 
beyond the mountains of ice and the valleys of white 
death? 

Who indeed. Except his own loneliness. 

The Soviet “scientific” installation was a blot on the 
white shelf above the gray sea, a dark Antarctic keep 
surrounded by ominous silence. Taylor swooped in for a 
recon dive around the near tower, his wings battling the 
still air like flashing spears. Piece of cake, he thought, 
catching the shimmer of the rich krill beds floating by the 
shore, undisturbed by the usual greedy gulls and hissing 
skuas. He’d have this mission in his pocket in a week. 

Then somebody croaked a strangled cry and Taylor 
jerked a notch higher in the air and something exploded 
in-near-through his brain and deaf he found himself fall- 
ing stunned into the sea which was suddenly an open 
mouth waiting to swallow him up and he knew he was 
going to go under and he knew he was going to drown and 
somewhere another explosion and somewhere a strangled 
scream — 

Webbed feet hit water and then breast — 

Help me, screamed his mind. 

And just before the waves closed over his head, he saw 
her. And knew there’d be no rescue. She was helpless, 
helpless; she’d never pull him or any drowning thing from 
the water. 

For she too was just another damn bird. 

A fterward, he possessed only the haziest memories of 
his fight against the frigid water. Raw determina- 
tion was the only thing that had placed him on this rocky 
ledge where he perched, stiff with cold and fear. And then 
the world went dark for an indefinite time. 

Sensing movement, he opened his eyes to the pastel 
dawn of Antarctic spring. The female albatross, an imma- 
ture bird no older than he, carried a gift of food. She fed 
him without coyness, letting him snatch it from her. What 
on earth — ? , 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



Birdbrain 



21 





He was cold, so cold. The world was going black again. 
But she opened her wings, trying to cover him. 

Her heart was so warm — 

It felt like broken sleep, but surely the whole thing was 
a dream. Or maybe he’d died, and as a spirit leaving a bird 
body had entered bird heaven. He couldn’t think. 

Time passed. The female shifted her feathers over his 
body. It didn’t make sense. What female chose a sickly 
mate, especially when both of them were too young for 
mating anyway? 

She nudged his wing impatiently. Taylor jerked erect, 
surprised the touch didn’t hurt as much as he’d expected. 
No permanent damage, then. He wondered, briefly, if the 
tiny camera on his leg-ring was waterproof. But he had 
bigger problems, such as the fact that he was wigging out. 
I think this bird is trying to tell me something. Not a good 
sign, T-bird, my friend. Not a good sign at all. 

Croaking softly, she took his beak in hers and tried to 
draw it down to her feet. When he shook her off, she lifted 
her left leg "high. Taylor was wishing he understood 
enough albatross to tell her the damn ledge wasn’t wide 
enough for such acrobatics. Then he saw it. A leg-ring, 
exactly like his own. 

Why hadn’t they told him there would be another bird? 
The old need-to-know bullshit, maybe. 

He slept twice more before he was ready to try his 
wings. She fed him between each sleep. Somewhere along 
the way he realized that she had to be another version of 
Taylor. After all, they wouldn’t record a new head every 
time they wanted to fire in a bird. 

He expected to feel threatened, the way he’d felt with 
Taylor the man. What he seemed to feel instead was a 
tentative gratitude. 

He had a lot to think about. But the advance flock was 
already approaching the Soviet installation and it was 
time to try his wings. 

T I ''he guns were eerily silent. Apparently they intended 
to let the birds get quite close to the installation 
before they started shooting. T-bird didn’t like the im- 
plications. 

Implications, hell. He didn’t like the facts. He’d been 
betrayed. The Russians knew about the animal spies and 
they were making goddamn sure none of them was going 
to amount to much more than fish food. 

The route of the flock, a loose assortment of gulls, 
albatrosses, and skuas, couldn’t have taken more than a 
few minutes, but to T-bird the destruction swelled to fill 



to peck at his leg herself. Then she darted away. Down to 
the destruction. 

T-bird felt a numb species of awe as she led him into 
the melee, dodging rifle-fire like an angel of God. It was 
inconceivable that they’d ever shared the same mind. 
Surely he was neither that brave nor that foolish. But he 
hadn’t time to think about it. A wall of bullets was whir- 
ring by his brain. And, even as he jerked higher, the 
female was pecking at his leg, making records. 

Enough. Most of them were dead, and it was time — 

He didn’t have a chance to complete the thought before 
the explosion sent him backwards and down. He righted 
himself in time to see the twisted corpse of what had once 
been a bird drop like a stone. 

A snowstorm of white, gray, and brown feathers danced 
delicately afterward. 

T-bird screamed, a hoarse inhuman cry. 

T To got away; he didn’t remember how, and he wasn’t 
-®- -®-proud of the fad. He kept remembering the female 
self, the way she’d laid herself on the line. 

Useless to say, as Lynen might, that she was hardly 
more than an edited tape that was stored on a computer 
even now, waiting to be reborn again; useless to say that 
T-bird himself was practically the same person and so you 
could scarcely say she'd died. He knew better. 

There was so much he’d have liked to ask her. How 
exact was the programming? What were the differences 
caused by getting burned onto a different physical body, 
the differences caused by different education? But what 
he was really getting at was this: Did he have, anywhere 
within himself, the same seeds of courage that she did? 

I Later, when the first wave of grief had passed, he was 
= able to think without drama or exaggeration: I have lost 
i my only friend. 

T—Te spent four schizophrenic months on South Geor- 
-®- -^-gia Island, croaking at the penguins, croaking at 
the skuas, croaking until he was hoarse with his inability 
to express what he felt. At first he thought he wasn’t going 
back. And then he knew he had to. 

They had a new keyboard when he got back, the kind 
that could call out whole phrases if he punched in the right 
mnemonic. But there was no handy-dandy shortcut for 
what T-bird had to say to Taylor, in front of the whole 
j group. 

! ’U BETRAYED ME. U SOLD ME TO RUSSIANS. 

The man shrugged. "Everybody in this room knows I’m 



all the time and space like a nightmare from which there’d 
be no awakening. The birds had been allowed to settle on 
the garbage dump at the outskirts of the installation, and 
then the crew had raised its automatics in a once-in-a- 
lifetime opportunity to spit out all the ammunition it 
could grab. The birds were ripped apart by a rain of steel 
that tore their bodies to shreds. Those who’d had time to 
take to the air fell down in pieces, the bloodied chunks of 
heads and trunk hitting earth first while the scattered 
feathers drifted lazily behind. 

Over the roar of the slaughter, the female croaked, then 
tapped her camera. What was she trying to say? She’d 
already used up her film? 

T-bird tried to kick his own leg-ring into action but, stiff 
from the accident, he couldn’t quite make it. Impatiently, 
she ducked underneath him, an easy mid-air maneuver, 



trustworthy. You had my brains spread out eight ways 
from Sunday for months.” 

“Can’t deny that," Kerr said helpfully. 

T-bird shook his head impatiently. True, Taylor had 
taken an incredible gamble, but then the pay-off was 
equally incredible — a Soviet operative positioned at the 
heart of mind-scanning technology. 

“You say yourself that you can’t remember anything 
that suggests that Taylor got. turned in Russia,” Lynen 
said impatiently. “Can’t you see that this is the old sibling 
rivalry thing all over again?” 

•ALL I C R BODIES OF FRIENDS 
“Birds, T-bird. They were birds. That’s all. Try to 
maintain some perspective on all this — ” 

The albatross snorted. What in hell did they think he 
was? 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



22 



Birdbrain 




Lynen laughed. "The photos show that the Russians "WOULD U TRUST ORUNT TO TF.I.I . Al .1 i.ATROSS 

were shooting anything that moved. If one of us had FROM AARDVARK 

betrayed you, they would know not to bother with skua “They’re going on rumor," she said. "That's all, No one 

and such," betrayed you. It's just one of those unfortunate t lungs.'' 



Birdbrain 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



23 



T-bird said nothing more. Who listens to a bird? 

T -bird cocked an eye at the story under the splashy 
headline on the paper Kerr had brought him: 
“REDS SLAUGHTER SEABIRDS 
“Tens of thousands may be dead. 

“The U.S. has uncovered evidence (see photo, right) 
that the Soviet Union has encouraged soldiers to use wild 
seabird flocks for target practice. Most of the target shoot- 
ing has taken place in Antarctica, where military training 
is forbidden under international law. Tens of thousands 
of birds, including penguins, albatrosses, gulls, and many 
others universally beloved by the world's people, have 
already been slaughtered in this cynical Soviet attempt 
to teach soldiers lack of respect for all life,’ said spokes- 
person ...." 

•PENGUINS? 

Kerr shrugged. “A colorful addition to the truth. People 
like penguins.” 

The photo was one of those close-ups, showing several 
bundled-up soldiers spraying automatic fire into the thick 
of the flock. A trick of perspective made a severed head 
leap out of the picture to grab the viewer’s attention. 
T-bird felt sick all over again. 

•THIS WHAT ITS ABOUT? 1 MORE SHOT IN 
PROPAGANDA WAR? 

“It's your war, too,” Kerr said. 

T-bird wondered. He was not human now and never 
would be, no matter where his mind had been once upon 
a time. What were human loyalties to him? 

Yet he was not a bird either, no matter what body his 
brain was sheltered in. He knew what it meant to aspire, 
to dream of creating something greater than yourself and 
your family, something enduring. 

He was a new thing, a new species, and now a new plan 
dreamed through him. Companions, he thought. I must 
have companions. I’ll get the agency to make more T-birds 
and we’ll start our own colony; we’ll fly high and free, and, 
when the humans have killed themselves in their endless 
quarrels, we’ll be there to start over .... 

“You did bring something back," Kerr was saying. "If 
not for you, the whole animal-spy program would have 
been a complete bust. I hope you’ll remember that.” 
T-bird looked at him with one unblinking eye. 

Kerr glanced down. “Look, it’s over. Without the ele- 
ment of surprise, animal spies are worthless. Continuing 
to use them opens us to the risk that one day the ad- 
ministration could be linked to their existence and the 
subsequent eco-slaughter currently blamed on the 
Soviets." 

The ornithologist didn’t talk like this, in this jargon. 
•WHAT HAPPENS TO BIRDS? 

It wasn’t easy to avoid the big-eyed gaze of an al- 
batross, but Kerr was doing it. 

•WHAT HAPPENS TO ME? 

Kerr touched his ID badge briefly, unconsciously. His 
hands were shaking. "I’m sorry,” he said. 

'T’-bird dashed into the hall, took a long running start, 
and swooped through the air. He flew without grace 
to the communal aviary where they kept the albatrosses 
awaiting memory bum-in. Lynen was standing just out- 
side the heavy double doors. She grabbed for him as he 
rushed to peck in the open-sesame code. 

24 



“Don’t — ” 

The code had been changed. He twisted around violent- 
ly, his beak a peck away from her right eye. 

“T-bird, you don’t want to see this. Where’s Kerr? He’s 
supposed to be talking with you.” 

He wouldn’t back off. Rage flared through his hollow 
bones like madness. 

The beak scant millimeters away from her eye con- 
vinced her. She let go of his wings to punch in the code. 
“Just remember that they're only birds, T-bird," she said 
wearily. “That’s all. Just birds. Nothing to do with you." 

T-bird walked down the aviary complex corridor, sick- 
ened by the stink of fish and death. Two men unknown to 
him were quietly marking and identifing the empty heaps 
of feathers collapsed about the room. 

Lynen followed, her arms folded across her chest. “I 
tried to spare you this. 1 told you not to go in.” 

T-bird snorted. 

“We couldn’t just release them,” she said. “What if some 
damned birdwatcher had seen them in the area and 
linked them to us?” 

He was glad he wasn’t human; it wasn't a proud thing 
to be. Some of these birds had been people. Lynen had 
forgotten that he’d met the female, that he knew there 
were others. 

She seemed to read his mind. "None of these animals 
were birdbrains, T-bird. Hell, what do you think we are? 
We know you’re human. We’re not going to just kill you...." 

Kerr’s trembling hands. The attempt at apology. T-bird 
realized that Kerr was supposed to be killing him. Right 
now. At this very moment. He made a move to leave, and 
then he saw the hypodermic in her hand. 

An albatross isn’t one of the world’s most 
maneuverable birds. He ran and leaped, clawing at the 
air. The needle grazed his feathers. "Damn it, catch him!” 
Lynen screamed at the men. 

A swan can break a human arm with a single blow. 
Could an albatross, or was it too specialized? Time to find 
out. T-bird dived between her legs, his head pounding like 
a hammer, his beak working, his right wing beating out.... 

Something snapped in her slender legs, and she was 
screaming, and T-bird was out the door. In the hall, he 
took another running leap and this time made it into the 
air. 

Behind him, screams and curses. Before him? 

Taylor’s office. Perhaps he’d caught a dim echo of the 
scuffle through the soundproofed halls, perhaps he’d only 
caught the cry of mind calling to mind ... but his door was 
open and he was standing in it. T-bird flew into his face, 
forcing him back into the office. With the thump of two 
webbed feet, he closed the door behind him. 

Taylor smiled. “I thought I was the enemy." 

T-bird looked around frantically. There was no key- 
board in Taylor’s office, nothing he could use to communi- 
cate his most desperate idea yet: If they want me dead, 
maybe that’s reason enough for you to keep me alive. 

“I can’t help you,” Taylor was saying. “Anyway, I’m out 
of here." For the first time, T-bird registered the presence 
of the half-packed box. 

T-bird didn’t have to ask where the man was going. He 
knew. How he knew he couldn’t say. It had something to 
do with the speed with which he’d become a bird. Once, 
perhaps, he’d become a Russian with equal speed. 

Slower, not dumber, Lynen had said, and here was the 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



Birdbrain 




proof: the memory of a classroom long ago, a professor | 
with a thin smile saying, "There are those who would 
argue that Marxism is the one true religion of the twen- J 
tieth century.” | 

“My work is done here,” the man was saying. His voice 
held a bitterness that might have been meant for the bird, 
might have been meant for any listening devices hidden 
in the walls. “The program’s over, and it’s time for me to 
recycle, to retire and give my seniority to some younger 
squirt, while I start all over in another field." 

Yes, over there it’s so much better, T-bird thought 
sarcastically. They didn’t have to force people to start all 
over again every twenty years, to give everybody a fair 
chance no matter when they were bom. Why should they? 

He picked up a pencil and scrawled clumsy words across 
an old memo: OVER THERE, THEY STILL DIE. 

“Over there, they still allow you to die,” Taylor cor- 
rected stiffly, provoked into honesty at last. But it was 
easy to be honest when you weren’t going to stick around 
to face the consequences. 

TRAITOR, T-bird wrote. 

“And what are you?" The man shook his head. “You’re 
not even true to yourself, to me. At first I thought you’d 
know. I thought we’d work together ....” 

Fractions, T-bird thought. The female was the proud, 
glorious part of himself, and this, this — he scrawled a 
huge question mark across the paper: Why? What had 
turned the man so easily? 

Taylor shrugged. “You really don’t remember her ... the 
woman?” 

T-bird shook his head no. 

“Funny.” But he wasn’t laughing. “They cut out the sex, 
they said, all the things associated with sex, and I guess 
she went, too. But I want you to know that all the time I 
thought it was love — ” 

T-bird remembered the female, remembered the 
dream of how easy it would be to abandon everything for 
a free and open life. And he found it in himself to under- 
stand, just a little. 

“The helicopter is waiting. I’m being escorted to HQ for 
debriefing before I’m allowed to retire.” 

The bird tensed. 

“But the chopper will never arrive at HQ. The other 
birdbrains are already on board, their cages disguised as 
some of the electronics shit we’re always sending back and 
forth. Maybe I could smuggle you in.” 

So now T-bird could get experimented on by Russians 
too. Great. Terrific. But what had he expected? 

He turned to go. And Taylor grabbed him. 

T I ^-bird choked in the dark suitcase. The air wouldn’t 
last until Russia, but maybe that's the way Taylor 
wanted it. He could demonstrate that he’d made the 
attempt to bring in the birds without actually risking the 
presence of someone with half his memories and that half 
not right screwing around with his new life. 

Should he conserve air, or should he struggle? T-bird 
slapped one strong foot against the side of the suitcase, 
making a satisfying thump. But nothing happened. 
Thump. Nothing. Thump. 

What was that? The clop of familiar footsteps. A pause. 
“The birdbrains are missing. I need to check the chopper 
before you leave." It was Kerr. 

T-bird didn’t know whether to kick for help or not. 



“Jesus Christ.” Taylor managed to produce precisely 
the right amount of exasperation as he unlocked the 
suitcase. Straining his ears, T-bird realized that he’d bent 
down to pull it open. Get ready, get set — 

Go. He exploded out of the case, slamming into Taylor 
hard enough to knock loose the gun he’d started to draw 
from within his jacket. T-bird ignored the clatter. Guns 
were worthless to a bird. His only weapon was his body, 
a heat-seeking missile aimed straight for the eyes. Kerr 
picked up the gun as Taylor flung his arms in front of his 
face. “Get out," Kerr said quietly. "Out of the chopper.” 
Taylor descended, cursing. There was a quick breeze 
through the chopper as the door slid open and closed 
again. 

Now for Kerr. T-bird turned to see him turning the gun 
over and over in his hands, not quite aiming it at anybody 
as he looked at the pilot. “Let’s go,” he said. “HQ will want 
a full report.” 

“I’d kind of like a full report myself.” 

“It's on a need-to-know basis, fellow. Sorry.” 

T-bird’s keen ears easily detected the shouts over the 
roar of the helicopter. The pilot didn’t hear, or pretended 
not to. There was, after all, the matter of Kerr’s gun to 
consider. They lurched into the air. 

"I’m no fucking assassin,” Kerr said. “I’m not going to 
be the fall guy. Murder, that’s what it is.” 

“I’m sure you aren’t,” the pilot said. His twisted voice 
sounded anything but sure. 

T-bird looked at the ornithologist, afraid to breathe. 
“There’s more human inside of you than in one of those 
things they hook up to the machine,” Kerr told him. “I 
know that much, anyway. It’s murder if I kill you now.” 
The pilot thought Kerr was talking to him, the only 
human in sight. “Yeah, man, well, I hope you keep that in 
mind.” 

T-bird wished he could say something, anything. Kerr 
was doomed. The right to immortality didn’t extend to 
operatives gone bad. You could always disappear. 

The ornithologist started opening boxes, releasing the 
small flock of birdbrains. Three females, two males. A 
damn small community, T-bird thought, but a helluva lot 
better than nothing. The birds shook out their wings as 
they looked each other over. 

Kerr was waving the gun around again. “Hey, buddy,” 
he said. “You see that park down there?” 

“Yeah, I see it.” 

“Let’s touch down there for a minute. The company 
doesn’t need to be worried with these damn birds.” 
“Whatever you say, fellow.” 

“I liked birds once,” Kerr said. "That’s the whole reason 
I became an ornithologist. You’d think they’d understand 
that." 

“Stands to reason,” the pilot agreed nervously. 

The big birds plopped down awkwardly from the chop- 
per. T-bird turned his head for a moment, looking back- 
ward at the man who had taught him how to be a bird. He 
pitied humans their life without wings. Freedom of choice 
was a cruel illusion for them, when it cost them so much 
to do what they thought was right. Kerr would never get 
away. 

The rest of the flock was already running, wings flap- 
ping to build up speed. T-bird hurried to catch up. It was 
a long way to Antarctica. □ 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



Birdbrain 



25 




Eyes of Chaos 

By Robert A. Metzger 

Art by Carol Heyer 



P ast steel bars and a fogged window, fall was giving 
way to winter. The old maple tree, with its twisted 
trunk and threadbare tire swing, only days ago had 
burned with leaves of orange and amber. But today, 
looking skeletal and nearly dead, it whipped in the cold 
wind, its naked limbs twitching with each gust. Fallen 
leaves, having all turned to the color of mud, were buffeted 
and hurled through the soot-colored afternoon sky. Many 
would crash against the window and then flutter back into 
the wind, but a few, torn and crumbled, would stick 
against the cold glass. 

“What do you see out there, Doc?” I asked. 

Doc didn't move, and he certainly wouldn’t be answer- 
ing me. The nearly translucent skin of his face hung in 
thin, wrinkled folds. The only indication that he wasn’t 
actually some mummified corpse was the rhythmic 
twitching of his left cheek. We shared a bench by the day 
room’s only window. But while I sat back, sinking into soft 
cushions and sipping greasy coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. 
Doc sat perched on the very edge of the couch, clenching 
the window’s bars with white-knuckled fists, and looked 
unblinkingly out into the yard. 

“No one’s home, college boy.” 

I swiveled around, managing to spill coffee over my 
already terminally stained jeans. 

Horace Brockmeister tapped a stubby index finger 
against the side of his pink, bald head. “It’s the wide open 
spaces,” he said while again tapping the side of his head, 
then giggled through his nose in a spasm of wet-sounding 
snorts. 

Horace was senior orderly on the day shift in the 
schizophrenia ward of the Roseville Sanatorium. From 
what I’d been told, he’d been here nearly sixteen years. 
With that seniority went the privilege of throwing the 
switch during electro-shock whenever some unfortunate 
at Roseville needed a brainwave scramble. Behind his 
dull, piggy eyes, I could see within him the little boy who 
had probably enjoyed pulling the wings off horseflies and 
igniting ants under a magnifying glass. 

Bending back my head and angling up my nose,' I 
sniffed. “Smells like Tom Wislow couldn’t find the head.” 
Sometime in the distant past, Horace had been relieved ! 
of his sense of smell, courtesy of a sinus infection that had 
fried his nasal passages. To Horace, a bucket of shit or a 
bouquet of roses all smelled the same. If Nurse Russel 
came across Tom’s calling card, it would be Horace’s ass 
that would get chewed. 

“Where?” asked Horace in a panicky voice as he twisted 
his head from side to side, sniffing like a bloodhound 
through his useless nose. 

Nurse Russel had the power to revoke Horace’s 
cherished switch-throwing privilege. 

I pointed in the general direction of the hallway that 
led out of the day room. Horace took off in a dog-trot, 
pushing aside whatever residents were unfortunate 
26 



enough to get in his way. 

"You know," I said as I turned back to Doc, “now that 
Horace is gone, the smell seems to have vanished. Think 
there’s a correlation between the smell and Horace?" I 
asked jokingly. 

Doc turned his head. The old man no longer had any 
eyebrows, having nervously plucked them out so many 
times that only red, leathery scar tissue remained. He 
blinked, and his eyes focused. He stared at my mouth. 
“Odor is not the random, Brownian effect that most people 
believe,” he said, then paused for only a second, as if 
listening to some faraway voice. “When my dopamine 
level is high enough, I can see the order above the chaos." 
Then his eyes glazed over, and he turned to look back 
through the window. 

My Styrofoam cup dropped and, hitting the linoleum 
floor, sent up a small geyser of coffee. I’d been coming here 
every Wednesday for almost two years. In all that time 
Doc had never spoken a word, or given any indication that 
he even knew anyone else existed. 

“Doc?” I asked gently. 

He continued to stare out into the yard. 

|\r. Reginald Hillburn, chief head-shrinker at 
Roseville, peered down at me from over the rims 
of his bifocals. “You were mistaken, Richard.” 

My name was Dick Bowers. Besides going by Dick, I’d 
answer to Rick, Dickie, Dickhead, Bowers, Bow Wow, Hey 
You, and even Dumb Shit. Richard was not a viable 
option, and Hillburn unfortunately knew that. In a mo- 
ment of weakness, when I had first volunteered at 
Roseville, I had let Hillburn know how I detested the 
name Richard. Since then, he had been incapable of call- 
ing me anything else. 

I satupstraighter, trying to get eye level with Hillburn, 
but it was impossible. His visitor’s chair had at least six 
inches sawed off the bottom of its legs. It felt as if I was 
sitting in a hole. 

“I am not,” I said defiantly as I looked up at him. “He 
spoke to me as clearly as both of us are speaking right 
now.” 

Sticking out his stubby tongue, Hillburn licked the ball 
of his thumb, then flipped through papers in the open file. 
He plucked out a single page and held it out at arm’s 
length. “Dr. Ernest T. Raymond, often referred to by the 
staff as Doc, was admitted to Roseville April 12, 1970.” 
Hillburn lowered the paper so he could just barely see me. 
“That’s nearly twenty years ago.” He squinted his eyes as 
if to emphasize just how long twenty years really was. “Dr. 
Raymond suffered a nervous breakdown while giving a 
lecture on nonlinear biological responses.” Again Hillburn 
peered at me, almost as if he was trying to indicate that 



Copyright © 1990 by Robert A. Metzger 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



Eyes of Chaos 




what he was saying should hold some special meaning for 
me. After several seconds, he cleared his throat. “Before 
he could be subdued, he had eaten half a box of chalk, 
somehow managed to light his socks on fire, and had 
smashed every fluorescent light in the lecture hall.” He 
lowered the single sheet of paper back onto the thick pile. 
“His symptoms were those of the classic schizophrenic: 
hallucinations, delusions, and even stream-of-conscious- 
ness r amblings that would go on for hours. Dr. Raymond 
was most fortunate that we had the drugs to handle this. 
It took a while to hit upon the correct dosages of 
Thorazine, Haldol, and Mellaril, but once we did, he 
leveled out, and except for the occasional bout of 
catatonia, and some Parkinson-like side effects, he’s now 
quite manageable.” 

Hillburn then folded his hands and smiled with that 
arrogant physician smile, just daring me to try to argue 
against the combined wisdom of himself and the phar- 
macological cornucopia that he used to battle mental 
illness. 

“He spoke to me,” I said once again. 

Hillburn leaned across his desk toward me. He reeked 
of coffee and musk cologne. 

“Richard,” he said in a tone of voice making certain that 
I knew who was the master and who was the slave, “that 
old man who you claim spoke to you, many years ago was 
suffering from life-threatening seizures. It required 
surgery to save his life, but during that surgery, the 
Broca’s area of his brain was damaged. He is now physi- 
cally incapable of speech.” He wagged a finger at me as if 
talking to a dog that had just shit on the carpet. “Let us 
not forget why you are here, and what your respon- 
sibilities are. You are a senior at UCLA, enrolled in 
premed. You do volunteer work here at Roseville, one day 
a week, only to get your tuition fees waived, and to 
embellish your applications for med school. As long as you 
obey my rule of posing as a resident so as not to disturb 
our real residents, I will continue to permit you to observe 
and to interact with our residents on a social basis.” He 
wagged his finger again. “However, you will not interfere 
in the care or diagnosis of the patients. You are not a 
doctor.” He sat back in his chair and ran a hand across his 
thinning hair. “Is that understood?” he asked. 

I simply nodded. 

What he said was true. I was here to get my tuition 
waived and to pad my applications for med school, but as 
of today, and because of this patronizing lecture, it had 
suddenly become more than that. If there was something 
about Doc other than just the drugged-out schizoid star- 
ing through a window that Hillburn believed he was, I’d 
find out what that something was, and then stuff the truth 
down Hillbum’s throat. 

I smiled. 'Whatever you say, Dr. Hillburn.” Standing 
from the chair, I started to walk toward the door. 

“Oh, Richard.” 

I stopped and turned. Hillburn held out a TV remote. 
“Just to show you that I’m not the uninquisitive ad- 
ministrator that you believe me to be, I had the Vid from 
the day room pulled from last Wednesday and set it up to 
the point at which you claim Dr. Raymond spoke to you.” 
He pointed the remote at my head and flicked a button. 
Behind me, something hissed and crackled. 

Turning, I faced a wall monitor. It showed the back end 
of the day room. There was no sound, only picture. I was 

28 



sitting on the couch with Doc. 

“I believe this is where you claim the incident oc- 
curred." 

Doc’s head turned toward me. His lips did not. so much 
as move. His mouth was closed tightly, and the only 
movement of his face came front his twitching cheek. My 
Styrofoam cup hit the floor, sending up a fountain of 
coffee. Doc then turned back to stare through the window. 

My eyelids fluttered uncontrollably. The Vid couldn’t 
lie. 

“As you can see,” said Hillburn, “unless that old man 
is an extremely talented ventriloquist, he did not speak.” 

I turned back to Hillburn, who was now smiling with a 
wide, self-satisfied grin. “It’s not a good sign to be hearing 
voices that aren’t there, Richard. That's often an early 
symptom of schizophrenia." His grin turned into a laugh. 
“Perhaps in your Wednesday morning placebo. I should 
prescribe a little lithium to flatten out your hyperactive 
imagination and a couple of Thorazine tabs to lower your 
dopamine level.” 

I walked out without saying a word. Only a minute 
earlier all I had wanted to do was to show up Hillburn for 
the arrogant ass that he was, but now that had become a 
trivial and unimportant detail. Somehow the Vid hadn’t 
shown it, but Doc had spoken to me. and I had to find out 
how. 

Tn many ways my schedule at Roseville was as regi- 

-®-mented and ingrained as the behavior patterns of 
the schizoids that 1 observed. Every Tuesday night after 
lights off, when everyone was neatly locked into his sleep 
cubicle, the night staff would let me in, and I'd head into 
my own cubicle. When morning came and the cubicle 
doors were unlocked. I’d wander out like the rest of them, 
ready for another day on the schizoid ward. They were all 
so drugged and trapped in their own delusional worlds 
that few, if any, of them were able to recognize that I had 
been missing for the previous six days. 

Every Wednesday I’d share the day with them, watch- 
ing TV, occasionally bouncing my head against the wall, 
talking to the trash can, and demanding ice cream from 
any nurse who would come within shouting distance of 
me. After we were all locked up for the night, the staff 
would release me. 

The project I had been working on for the past two 
years dealt with creating a mathematical model to 
describe schizophrenia, based on the cyclic imbalance of 
dopamine concentrations at synaptic sites within the 
brain. It was an assigned topic by my advisor, a hard-core 
neuroanatomist who believed that soul and mind were 
nothing more than the result of neurons floating in the 
chemical soup of the brain. At first I had been extremely 
interested in the project, but after being at Roseville for a 
month, I realized that a model could never be obtained by 
observing these ward patients. They were so heavily 
drugged, and the chemical balance of their brains so 
artificially altered, that they were no longer operating in 
a true schizoid fashion. 

I tried to explain that to my advisor, but he simply 
didn’t want to hear it. I fought him for awhile, but finally 
gave it up, remembering that my real motivation was the 
waiving of my tuition and the enhancement of my med 
school applications. For the next two years, I had simply 
cruised, taking meaningless notes and counting down the 

Eyes of Chaos 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



weeks until I graduated. That is, until Hillbum had 
shown me that damned Vid. That had been four Wednes- 
days ago, and since then I’d stuck to Doc as if we were 
stapled together at the hip. 

So far, he hadn’t said a word. 

“How’s your oatmeal?” I asked Doc. 

We shared one of the couple of dozen tables in the day 
room. He ate like an automaton, a spoonful every twenty- 
three seconds, chewing every mouthful eight times. After 
every fourth bite, he’d take a sip of orange juice. His eyes 
never seemed to focus. 

“Time for medication.” 

I looked up from my own bowl. Nurse Springer stood 
next to our table. She was almost as wide as she was tall, 
and her chubby face was filled with a warm smile. She 
was one of the few people in Roseville who were still 
genuinely human. 

“Doc,” she said as she held out a small paper cup filled 
with rattling pills. 

Doc was chewing his third mouthful of oatmeal, and 
Nurse Springer knew that she would simply have to wait 
until he was ready. After swallowing, he scooped up his 
fourth spoonful and began chewing. 

Nurse Springer smiled over at me. "I think there’s a 
football game on this afternoon. The Rams and ...” She 
paused, apparently trying to remember the name of the 
other team. 

“The Royals,” I said, teasing her, wondering if she 
would even realize that they were a baseball team. 

She giggled like a little girl, which caused her whole 
body to quiver. “I believe you’re right,” she said. 

I was not all that surprised that she hadn't realized the 
Royals were a baseball team, but I was surprised that she 
would have thought that a football game would be played 
on a Wednesday afternoon. Being the day room's TV 
remote czar, she knew the TV schedule better than any of 
the residents, and must have known that football was 
never played on Wednesdays. I hoped this place wasn’t 
finally getting to her. 

With a shaking hand, Doc laid his spoon onto the 
tabletop. He had finally swallowed his fourth spoonful. 
Nurse Springer placed the cup in his shaking right hand. 
I’d watched this countless times. Doc would transfer the 
cup to his left hand, hold it to his lips, and, jerking back 
his head, pop the pills into his mouth. Then, picking up 
his orange juice cup, he’d take a sip and swallow the pills. 
The last part of the ritual consisted of opening his mouth 
and sticking out his tongue so that Nurse Springer could 
see he had swallowed his medication. She never bothered 
to look. Doc had been here so long, and his actions were 
so repeatable, that no one ever checked to see that he 
swallowed his pills. 

“I’ll be back with yours in a minute, Dick,” she said to 
me as she turned. 

“Don’t forget the ice cream,” I said, calling out after her. 
Whenever the opportunity presented itself. I’d play some 
facet of my schizoid persona. 

Doc had returned to his oatmeal. He was staring into 
the bowl, his jaw automatically chewing. 

I almost slipped into my own equally mechanical oat- 
meal consumption, but something caught my attention, 
something I couldn’t quite see. I looked over at Doc. He 
was chewing like a contented cow. Nothing different 
there. 



His left hand moved. 

That was it. 

After medication, he always dropped his left hand into 
his lap. But now it was on the table, locked into a fist. He 
slowly turned it over, and the fingers uncurled one by one. 
The wrinkled palm of his hand was filled with a half dozen 
pills and capsules. 

“Here you go, Dick.” 

His fingers snapped shut, so rapidly that it startled me, 
and I actually jumped in my seat. 

“I’m sorry I spooked you, Dick.” 

I looked up, and Nurse Springer held a paper cup out 
toward me. She obviously hadn’t seen what had been in 
Doc’s hand, or she would have been shouting for an 
orderly. I wasn't about to give away Doc’s secret. 

“No ice cream,” I said as sadly as I could, looking up at 
her, maintaining the masquerade. 

“Not for breakfast, but I’ll see what I can do about 
lunch.” She rattled the cup at me, and, reaching out, I took 
it. 

Doc had finished his breakfast, and, with some oatmeal 
dribbling down the creases in his chin, he was looking 
across the table at me. His eyes were focused, and he was 
staring at me with a hawk-like gaze. He was testing me. 

Nurse Springer wasn't paying any real attention. After 
all, there was no reason to. The pills in my cup were 
nothing more than placebos — candy-coated capsules. She 
was looking toward the far end of the room in the direction 
of the TV. I emptied the pills into my left hand, held the 
cup up to my mouth just as Doc had, and pretended to toss 
them into my mouth. I took a drink of juice and swallowed. 

“All down?” asked Nurse Springer. 

I opened my mouth, and stuck out my tongue. 

“Good,” she said, smiling. 

I simply nodded, and that seemed to satisfy her. She 
walked back to the dispensary. 

Doc continued to stare at me. 

“How long have you been palming your medication?” I 
asked in a whisper. 

His lips quivered, and then he spoke. “For a couple of 
years now,” he said. Then the awareness in his eyes faded 
away. Slowly standing, he picked up his plastic bowl and 
cup and shuffled away to the trash can. When he dumped 
his trash, I could see him also toss away the pills. He then 
moved off toward the far end of the room and to the 
window. 

Doc had been faking for the last several years. He 
couldn’t be schizoid any longer, because if he were, 
without his medication, he would have been behaving like 
a raving maniac. I had been right. 1 still didn't know why 
the Vid hadn’t shown him speaking, but it was now 
obvious that something strange was going on with Doc. 

I dumped my own trash and pills just as Doc had, and 
then joined him at the couch by the window. 1 felt slightly 
dizzy, and the lights in the day room seemed to be extra 
bright. I was probably doing too much reading, and my 
eyes were letting me know it. Shaking my head, and 
almost clearing it, I looked over at Doc. He was again 
staring out into the yard, where leaves were being tossed 
about in the wind. 

“Why are you talking to me?” 

Doc didn’t turn, but I could see the corner of his mouth 
move. “I can’t save myself," he said. Then he sat silent for 
several seconds, with his nose pressed up against ope of 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



Eyes of Chaos 



29 






the bars. He reached out both hands and, placing his 
fingers against the window, traced along the edges of the 
leaves which were stuck to the other side of the glass. “Let 
the white light in,” he whispered, “and you’ll see that 
chaos is nothing more than a higher form of order. See it 
with your soul." His arms lowered in a set of ragged jerks, 
and he slumped back into the couch, his eyes vacant and 
empty. 

I tried for another hour to get him to talk, but, due to 
my own impatience and a headache that felt as if someone 
was drilling into my left eyeball with a dull drill bit, I 
finally gave up. I’d have to play this game by Doc’s rules, 
and according to his schedule. 

r I ''he afternoon dragged on, and we all stared up at 
the TV, watching some soap opera. The blonde on 
screen, with silicone-reinforced tits and make-up that had 
probably been applied with a cement trowel, was debating 
whether to kill her husband with a pick-axe or take him 
to their anniversary dinner. The line separating those 
inside Roseville from those outside was truly a thin one. 

I rubbed both my temples, fighting a sick headache. For 
at least an hour now there ’d been a low-level buzz in my 
ears, and the little finger of my left hand had been twitch- 
ing like a metronome. I was probably coming down with 
the flu. A quick glance over my shoulder and I saw that 
Doc had finally moved. He was still on the couch, but his 
head was now tilted back. 

I walked over toward him, almost stumbling over my 
own feet because of a sticky floor and my spinning head. 
This flu had screwed up my balance. 

Doc had tom a strip of cloth from the bottom of his 
shirt, and had further ripped that into small pieces. He 
held the pieces about a foot above his lap; then, opening 
his hand, he would let the pieces flutter down. They were 
numbered in red ink, with a barely intelligible chicken 
scrawl, from one to thirteen. Once the pieces were in his 
lap, he’d touch each one with the tip of his index finger, 
then gather them back up and repeat the whole process. 
I watched him do this two or three times before I finally 
sat down next to him. 

My fingers and toes felt as if a million ants nibbled at 
them. 

"Is the world a linear or nonlinear place?” asked Doc, 
as he stared straight ahead. 

A rust-red line of dried blood ran from the corner of his 
mouth. It was suddenly obvious how he had numbered the 
scraps of fabric. I started to turn around to call for a nurse. 
Doc had probably only bit his lip, but he looked so fragile 
and ancient that the blood dripping down his chin could 
be a sign of some serious internal damage. 

A vise-like grip locked around my wrist. 

“Answer my question,” said Doc in a hiss. 

I looked down at my wrist. The tendons in the back of 
Doc’s hand were taut and quivering. I realized that I had 
to humor him and answer his question. Anything less 
plight throw him into a raging fit, or some sort of seizure. 

“The world’s linear,” I answered. That sounded 
reasonable to me. Cars cruising along freeways, smooth 
round oranges, and a sun that rose and set every day 
seemed to indicate a sort of linear feel about things. 

He squeezed my wrist even tighter. I could feel my 
fingers bulge. 

“Not for us,” said Doc. Reaching up with his free hand, 

30 



he poked a stiff and shaking index finger against his 
forehead. His fingernail tore into his pasty skin. A thin 
trickle of blood ran down where his eyebrows had once 
been and dripped into his left eye. “What's occurring at 
the synapses inside my brain? How's the dopamine level 
fluctuating?" 

Now I realized what Doc’s question was really about. 
In a normal brain, dopamine is a chemical neurotransmit- 
ter that carries messages about outside reality to the 
synapses in the brain, which in turn interpret the reality, 
and tell the body how to respond to it. In a normal brain, 
dopamine production is a linear response to outside 
stimulation. If a bouncing ball jumps a little higher, 
dopamine production increases just a little bit, and carries 
this information to a synapse. 

That’s not the case for the schizoid brain. For a while, 
the brain might not even notice the bouncing ball, when 
suddenly, for reasons not understood, dopamine produc- 
tion almost explodes, firing and refiring both targeted and 
random synapses. The schizoid sees bouncing balls, 
hurled at him straight from hell, intent on Vaporizing his 
head. Without medication, the dopamine concentrations 
run wild, oscillating in an unstable manner from almost 
nothing, which produces a trance-like catatonic slate, to 
practically flooding the brain, which results in classic 
uncontrollable schizoid behavior. That's what was going 
on in Doc’s brain right now. That’s what my research had 
been all about, to try to model the nonlinear production 
of dopamine, and understand how that interacted with 
the synapses. 

Doc turned his head, and I could now see the right half 
of his face. It was hardened and dead-looking. Drool ran 
from the corner of his mouth. "The linear brain sees the 
world around it and tries to interpret it in terms of nice 
straight lines and gentle curves.” His voice was now 
strained and somewhat garbled. “But the world isn’t 
linear. Linear is a subset of reality. The world is a chaotic- 
place. Small inputs make huge differences. A fan turned 
on in Tokyo can produce a blizzard over Kansas weeks 
later. A single person screaming can set off tens of 
thousands rioting. Free will comes from the nonlinearity 
in your brain. Reality itself is intrinsically unstable." 

He was rambling now, in the free-flow babble that was 
so characteristic of schizoid behavior. Any random 
thought was being amplified by his high dopamine levels. 

“You understand this,” he said in accusing tones. ~Our 
brains can feel the nonlinear reality around us. We can 
follow a single molecule of water flowing through a water- 
fall, and know which leaf out of millions will strike against 
our window." 

I took a quick glance through the window, and at the 
leaves being scattered about by the wind. Doc pointed a 
shaking finger. “That one,” he said, and seconds later a 
leaf plastered itself against the glass. 

He shook my arm. "You can’t see leaves yet, but you 
can see these.” He opened his hand, exposing the small 
strips of fabric. “You can control them,” he said. He shud- 
dered and took a deep breath. “The dopamine level is 
peaking." He held his open hand under my nose. “Thirteen 
of them. If you can see the chaos in the air about you, in 
the ragged corners of the fabric, and in the flakes of dried 
blood, then let the chaos in your brain match the chaos 
external to you. You are nonlinear reality.” 

My vision began to double, and the pieces of cloth in his 

Eyes of Chaos 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 




hand began to shimmer, then almost dance. My face was 
flushed. This flu was burning me up, scrambling my 
brain. 

“Feel it,” said Doc. “Blow those scraps from my hand. 
Apply just the right breath so that they fall to the ground, 
all neatly ordered one through thirteen. Your brain knows 
how to do it. It senses the instability that permeates the 
world. Blow!” he screamed. 

I could sense those at the TV turning and staring. 
Noises and voices exploded within my head. The world 
seemed to throb in random chaotic pulses. My eyes looked 
at Doc’s hand. The cloth scraps glistened, and sparks shot 
out from them. The air was alive with colors and sound, 
rainbow snakes and tensor equations. I knew and I felt, 
but I didn’t think. Thinking was linear, and all linearity 
was gone. 

Air whistled through my mouth, kicking up the cloth 
scraps and sending them through the living air. Buffeted 
and caressed by colors and creatures, touched by ghosts 
and bent by dreams, the scraps drifted down to the 
linoleum floor. 

"See!” screamed Doc. 

The sounds of feet hitting the floor were transmuted 
into the scent of lemons and the feel of cockroaches bur- 
rowing in my ears. My head seemed to flow like melting 
rubber, allowing my eyes to look down at the floor. The 
scraps lay neatly in a row, ordered one through thirteen, 
just as I knew they would be. Just as they had to be. 

My body flowed toward Doc, my eyes wandering across 
the side of my face. Doc’s eyes were closed. There was no 
longer any blood flowing down his chin or forehead. His 
hold on my wrist was stiff and cold. He was dead, had 
probably been dead for hours, but I couldn’t really be sure. 
Time was fluid, full of turbulence and eddies. 

“It was you all along,” Doc’s voice whispered within my 
head. “The Vid told the truth. The old man sitting across 
from you could never talk, never even think. As Hillbum 
told you, he’s just an old man, nearly brain-dead, without 
even a Broca’s center. His name is Dick Bowers." 

Poker chips rattled inside my eyeballs. 

“You just projected yourself onto him,” Doc's voice 
continued to whisper in my head, “thinking that you 
heard him say the things that you were dreaming. You 
can feel the blood run down your own chin. You are the 
one who made those scraps of paper numbered one 
through thirteen. The staff humored you, calling the old 
man by your name, and you by his.” 

It filled my head. It was knowledge and sanity, colored 
in a light of chaos and instability. The premed student 
visiting Roseville on Wednesdays had never existed. I 
was, and always had been, Doctor Ernest T. Raymond. 
Hillbum had been reading from my file. I had been locked 
up in Roseville for twenty years, trying to understand the 
chaos in my brain, my dopamine levels lowered by drugs, 
and a fantasy persona, using Dick Bowers’s name, had 
been created to salvage some small part of my sanity. But 
that chaos within me had allowed me to see the patterns 
that colored the external random world. 

I saw it clearly now. I’d been off my medication for 
almost two years, and my drug-damaged brain had slowly 
returned to what it had been on that day long ago, in that 
lecture hall full of students. I held my hands up to my ears 
and pressed, trying to hold my head together, certain that 
it was about to explode and send my brain splattering 

32 



across the four walls. My dopamine level had peaked. I 
could smell it in my blood. Pheromones drifted around me 
like swarms of screaming hornets. And the level wasn’t 
coming down. It wasn’t going to come down. The knowing 
of what I was, and the chaos and nonlinearity around me, 
had triggered stability in the dopamine at an incredibly 
high level. My synapses were now firing chaotically and 
nonlinearly in response to the world around me. I con- 
sciously controlled my dopamine levels. I did not under- 
stand reality, I mirrored it. 

I wanted my body to stand, and it did. Turn around, I 
ordered. My body turned. 

Orderlies, nurses, and a dozen patients stood behind 
the couch. “Tell Dr. Hillbum that Dr. Ernest T. Raymond 
is ready to check out," I said in almost a whisper. 

They would not move, but I knew that I could make 
them. I reached within myself, and felt the room around 
me, and knew it as it reflected within me. The unstable, 
nonlinear reality of the room was a part of me. 

“Is a demonstration required?” I asked. 

Horace Brockmeister shuffled forward. His face was 
flushed pink, and his piggy eyes were nearly invisible, 
sunk deep within folds of fat. In his hands he held a 
s traitjacket. Two other orderlies moved up behind him. 

"A little high-voltage dancing will straighten you right 
up,” said a smiling Horace. 

And he was right. "Thank you, Horace,” I said. 

I looked into the room. The air swarmed with ions, 
charged both positively and negatively. I waved my 
hands, my fingertips caressing the air, starting the 
avalanche process that would separate the ions. 

The hair on Horace’s forearms stood up stiff. 

“What?” he managed to ask. He dropped the strait- 
jacket. 

“Dance, Horace,” I said. 

Ions flowed toward him, negative ones to his left, 
positive ones to his right. Little purple lightning bolts 
exploded in front of him, some lancing down, striking him 
in the head, sending up dark puffs of steam. 

"No!” he screamed, too frightened to move. 

The air grew heavy and was filled with the scent of 
ozone. 

Bang! 

Rainbow-colored sparks exploded from Horace’s ears. 
He hit the floor, his arms and legs twitching, his bladder 
and bowels chaotically firing. He stared up at me with 
white eyes. 

I waved my hands. The ions across Horace’s head 
fluttered back into the air. He sagged. 

“I wish to see Dr. Hillburn so that I can complete my 
check-out before dinner time,” I said. 

Horace opened his eyes and stared up at me. 

“Now,” I said. 

Horace nodded, banging the back of his head against 
the linoleum floor. Without bothering to stand, he rolled 
over and began to crawl toward the door. 

I hoped all this could be straightened out before dinner 
time. With a little luck, the old diner down on Fourth 
Street still served homemade strawberry swirl ice cream. 
I hadn’t had decent ice cream in twenty years. □ 



MOVING? Be sure to let us know. Send your 
change of address to us as soon as you can. 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — Juiy-August 1990 



Eyes of Chaos 












By Janice M. Eisen 



The Day After Tomorrow 




Second. Contact 
By Mike Resnick 
Tor, 1990 
288 pp„ $17.95 

Mike Resnick’s new novel, Second 
Contact, is a change of pace from his 




explanation is that they were actually 
aliens. Naturally everyone, including 
Becker, thinks Jennings is crazy. But 
Becker keeps finding pieces that won’t 
fit, and before long he has unearthed I 
a massive conspiracy and is on the run I 
from it. : 

The plot is clever, though not full of 
surprises, and works well, except that 
the climax is over too quickly. The 
explanation we get at the end seems 
pulled out of the air. Of course, like all 
of Resnick's work, Second Contact is j 
well written. 

It is not a character-oriented novel, 
but the characters are fine, if not 
striking. Becker is a lot more naive 
than seems likely, though; you don’t 
have to be a practiced spy to know that 
you don’t choose “John Smith” as a 
pseudonym. 

My main problem with the book is 
that, though it is set 75 years in the 
future, it doesn't feel like 2065. Of 
course technology has advanced, but 
Resnick has changed the furniture 
and not the people. There seem to : 
have been no noticeable cultural | 
changes, and there will be; just think 
about how things have changed since [ 
1925. Except for space travel, the ' 
story could be happening today. One i 
jarring detail is that nearly everybody j 
in the book smokes, which would seem 
dated even in a novel set right now. 

Resnick has taken the easy way out, 
restricting his speculation very nar- i 
rowly. That makes the book less inter- j 
esting and challenging than it should 1 
have been. It’s an enjoyable read, but j 
nothing more. i 

Rating: -Vt'csV J r j 

Strings 

By Dave Duncan 

Del Rey, 1990 

311 pp„ $3.95 

Environmental disaster is much on 
people's minds these days, so it’s not 



Surprising to see many SK authors 
take up the theme. Dave Duncan’s 
new novel, Strings, is set in 2050, on 
a dying Earth, and concerns the dis- 
covery of a way out. It is intriguing 
and suspenseful 

1 was confused about whether this is 




supposed to be a slightly alternate 
world. All names are used in reverse 
— i.e. Smith John instead of John 
Smith — and there’s a reference near 
the beginning of the book to a movie 
featuring the Engels Brothers. I found 
no other such indications, though, so 
1 never did figure it out for sure. 

The plot would be very hard to ex- 
plain briefly, and even harder to ex- 
plain without giving away the 
surprises Duncan has for the reader. 
It is an involved construction of 
science, politics, lust, greed, and lies. 
In fact, there are so many lies that it’s 
hard to keep track of the truth. The 
plotting and counter-plotting can get 



Copyright © 1990 by .Janice M Risen ^ 

33 



other recent work. It’s a near-future 
suspense novel in the vein of North by 
Northwest. It is no major artistic 
achievement, but it’s entertaining, 
moving right along and pulling the 
reader with it. 

Military lawyer Max Becker has 
been assigned, over his vociferous ob- 
jections, to defend Wilbur II. -Jen- 
nings, a spaceship commander who 
killed two of his crew members. Ilis 

Rating System 

NNNNN Outstanding 

N N N N Very Good | 

N N -V Good 

N N Fair J 

N Poor i 



From the Bookshelf 



'Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 



990 






wmmmmmmmmmmmmwMmmmmmm. 

i confusing, but all becomes clear even- 
tually. Well, not all; there are one or 
two loose ends, but they’re minor. 

The protagonists, Hubbard Cedric 
and Princess Alya, are solid and 
believable, although Duncan is less 
successful when writing from Alya’s 
point of view than from Cedric’s. Most 
of the other characters are thoroughly 
despicable, but not overdrawn black 
hats, evil for the sake of being evil. 
The writing is generally good but un- 
even: there are occasional clumsy mo- 
ments, but also occasional sharp and 
smart turns of phrase. 

Strings takes an interesting idea 
and works it out well. It’s good SF, and 
a pretty good novel as well. 

Rating: tVtV>V+ 




Agviq 

By Michael Armstrong 
Popular/Questar, 1990 
275 pp. in proof, $4.50 

The post-holocaust novel has been 
done nearly to death, so an author 
who would write one now must come 
up with an original twist. (Such novels 
also suffer from the changes in the 
world situation during the past year, 
but that’s hardly something the 
authors could have predicted.) In 
Michael Armstrong’s Aguiq, the twist 
is that the survivors we follow are 
Eskimos in the barren northern 
reaches of Alaska — and Claudia, a 
white anthropology graduate student, 
who must teach the Inupiaq Eskimos 
the forgotten ways of their ancestors 
in order for all to survive. 



The novel is interesting and 
reasonably successful. One early 
problem is the set-up: Claudia and her 
partner Rob are at a dig in Alaska 
when the bombs drop, and the reasons 
they survive strain coincidence 
beyond endurance. Claudia’s carrying 
a “paranoia kit” with survival gear is 
just barely passable, but when Rob 
just happens to have brought along for 
pleasure reading a book by Dean Ing 
that contains plans and instructions 
for a fall-out shelter and other equip- 
ment, Armstrong nearly lost me. 
However, after that the plot doesn’t 
offend the reader’s intelligence. 

Claudia is an engaging and sym- 
pathetic character. We don’t sec 
enough of the other characters; in par- 
ticular, I wanted more about two of 
the Eskimos, Tuttu and Tammy. 
Tuttu is the leader of the Inupiaq, but 
we don’t see enough of him to under- 
stand how Claudia can fall in love 
with him and forgive an atrocious act 
without even an explanation. Tammy 
should be the most interesting charac- 
ter, as a lesbian of Eskimo heritage 
who grew up in a white household, but 
we get to see nothing of the conflict 
between the ways she’s been brought 
up to and the Inupiaq ways that are 
theoretically “hers." Armstrong 
seems uncomfortable with the charac- 
ter, and he repeatedly refers to her as 
"the lesbian” in contexts that have 
nothing to do with her sexuality. 

In fact, the issue of sex and reproduc- 
tion is pretty much ignored in this 
novel, though it seems a crucial one. I 
kept expecting Armstrong to deal 
with it, particularly since he had es- 
tablished Tammy as a lesbian, but he 
never did. There are far more men 
than women among the survivors, but 
there never seerns to be any tension or 
potential problems. Will the men 
decide that, like food, the women need 
to be shared? Will they force Tammy 
to have sex with them? Will they 
demand that the women get pregnant 
to help the tribe survive? Armstrong 
addresses none of these questions. 

The Inupiaq culture is well 
presented, but the endless details 
started to bore me after awhile. The 
essential irony of a vyhite person 
having to teach the Inupiaq to be Es- 
kimo is not used as well as it could 
have been. The whaling sequences are 
exciting and suspenseful. An intrigu- 
ing mystery — phantom broadcasts of 
old Walter Cronkite news reports — 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 



I is resolved anti-climactically, and 
| without sufficient explanation. 

Aguiq is enjoyable, though not a 
( standout and not as original as it 
j could have been. The author fails to 
flesh out most of the characters and 
1 sometimes seems not. to have thought. 
| through the ramifications of the situa- 
tion they find themselves in. But the 
protagonist is appealing, the Eskimo 
background is generally interesting, 
and there are some startling details 
and remarkable scenes. 

! Rating: ',Y >Y -V 



Father to the Man 
By John Gribbin 
Tor. 1990 
248 pp., $3,95 




John Gribbin’s name may sound 
familiar, because several years ago he 
became (in)famous for The Jupiter Ef- 
fect. Now lie has written a work of 
i intentional science ficLion. Father to 
| the Man is a novel of evolutionary 
j speculation, and a tale of the fall of 
; man and the rise of his replacement, 
i Richard Lee is a geneticist who 
; makes the mistake of explaining 
j publicly that his research indicates a 
i much closer relationship between 
; humans and chimpanzee than pre- 
viously believed. The power of fun- 
■ damentalists in this near future is 
sufficient to destroy his career and 
! murder the woman he loves, 
j Meanwhile, the earth is on the verge 
j of destruction from environmental 
j disaster and war. 

j Father to the Man reads like a novel 
| by a scientist — there’s not much be- 

1990 



34 



From the Bookshelf 



sides the scientific ideas to the book. 
Unfortunately, those ideas aren’t ter- 
ribly startling, so they make a weak 
foundation for a novel. The book 
seems a bit thin, with too little plot, 
and the rest filled out with predictable 
harbingers of disaster. Gribbin’s 
prose is serviceable, his characters 
cardboard. The author often falls into 
cliches of both plot and language. 

Gribbin grinds his axes quite loudly, 
giving the book a didactic feel. Some 
details don’t make much sense. For 
example, why does it seem that, not 
far in the future, no one besides 
specialists has heard of the green- 
house effect? I never understood fully 
what was behind the fundamentalist 
anti-technology preacher we see a 
couple of times; there are dark hints 




i 



of hidden motives, but they’re never 
brought to light. 

Most of the flaws in this book are 
common in hard SF, but that doesn’t 
make them any easier to take. Father 
to the Man is an interesting specula- 
tion, but a less interesting novel. 

Rating: 



The Dark Hand of Magic 
By Barbara Hambly 
Del Rey, 1990 
309 pp., $4.95 

Barbara Hambly is one of the best 
current practitioners of what we 
might call "hard fantasy’’: fantasy 
that is as rigorously constructed as 
the best hard science fiction. The Dark 
Hand of Magic is a worthy and involv- 



ing sequel to The Ladies of Mandrigyn 
and The Witches of Wenshar. Like the 
previous two books, it stands on its 
own despite being a part of a series; 
there’s a full plot that is resolved 
satisfactorily. Certainly having read 
the others (which I highly recom- 
mend) helps your appreciation of the 
characters, but it’s not essential. 

Sun Wolf is a former mercenary 
chief who has become a wizard, in a 
world where wizardry was sup- 
pressed for over a century. Starhawk, 
his companion and lover, was his 
closest aide, and she now travels with 
Sun Wolf in his quest to find a wizard 
who can teach him. 

In this novel. Sun Wolf and Star- 
hawk get embroiled with their old 
mercenary army, a life they thought 
they had left. The army is besieging a 
city, but so many things have gone 
badly and unexpectedly wrong that 
they have become convinced they are 
under a curse. They seek out Sun Wolf 
to help them fight the unknown 
wizard who is victimizing them. Un- 
fortunately, as Wolf soon finds out, 
the wizard is more powerful than he 
could have imagined and wants to 
enslave him. 

In this book we get to see from their 
new perspective Sun Wolf and 
Starhawk’s previous lives as mer- 
cenaries. We see both the attraction of 
it and the repulsion they now feel, 
having lived with the innocent 
townsfolk who get starved, raped, tor- 
tured, and killed. It’s a horrible, cost- 
ly, vicious war, fought over money, 
and there’s nothing in the least 
romantic about it. We can like in- 
dividual members of the mercenary 
army, but we can only hate what it 
does. 

The plot moves a little slowly at 
times, getting bogged down in descrip- 
tion, but it’s generally excellent. 
Toward the end I was absorbed, read- 
ing and reading late into the night and 
trying to figure out who the villain 
was. And like life, this book doesn't 
end tidily once the villain is disposed 
of — there are things to be taken care 
of, and the characters take care of 
them. 

Hambly does her usual fine job of 
characterization, particularly with 
Sun Wolf, for we see less of Starhawk 
in this novel. Their love continues to 
gain depth. She has also created a 
believably amoral yet somehow sym- 
pathetic female robber baron. 



The world is, as ever, logically con- 
structed. We find out more about how 
this world's magic works, and it all 
makes sense. We get to see yet 
another sub-culture in this world, a 
mercantile one. 

If you haven't read Hambly before, 
this isn’t a bad place to start. Don't be 
put off by the atrocious cover; The 
Dark Hand of Magic is impressive 
work from one of the most talented 
fantasy writers we’ve got. 

Rating: t-Y ",V iV 

Carmen Miranda's Ghost is Haunt- 
ing Space Station Three 
Edited by Don Sakers 
Baen, 1990 
305 pp., $3.95 




Carmen Miranda’s Ghost ... is 
probably the silliest idea for an an- 
thology ever (unless someone has ac- 
tually published Great SF About 
Artichokes — and maybe even then). 
Consisting of stories inspired by Les- 
lie Fish’s song of the same title, it is 
; light and amusing, although the over- 
' all caliber of the stories is not as high 
I as 1 would have liked. 

The stories draw on pop culture, 
j from Spaceman Spiff to the Pigeon 
Sisters (whose creation Sakers er- 
roneously credits to Mary L. Mand, 
author of “The Pigeon Sisters on 
Space Station Three,” rather than to 
Neil Simon). Some of the best stories: 
“In the Can,” by Esther Friesner, 
which somehow manages to be both 
hard-boiled and New Age; "Tarawa 



From the Bookshelf 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 



1 990 



35 



, Rising,” by Don Sakers, a funny and 
moving tale of a drag queen; “La Vita 
Nuova," by B. W. Clough, in which the 
ghost of Dante makes his appearance; 
“That Souse American Way,” by S. N. 
Lewitt, in which Carmen helps a 
Brazilian revolutionary; and “The 
Entertainer,” by Eric Blackburn, a 
tale of a psychic investigator. 

The most disappointing contribu- 
tion is Anne McCaffrey’s “If Madam 
Likes You ..." which is predictable 
and, most surprisingly, carelessly 
written. There’s a feeling of 
amateurishness to some of the other 
contributions; the writing is not suffi- 
ciently polished and professional. 

It is interesting to see the different 
approaches the authors take to the 
same song, with Bruce B. Barnett ac- 




tually fuming it into a hard SF story. 
But the joke wears thin, and I’m not ; 
sure it’s a good idea to stretch it to ! 
another anthology, as Sakers hints he i 
will in his afterword. I 

Rating: '-YtViY 

! 

The Dragon Revenant \ 

By Katharine Kerr 
FoundatioiVDoubleday, 1990 i 

384 pp., $18.95 he, $8.95 pb I 

I 

I’m finding myself at a bit of a loss j 
trying to write a review of Katharine j 
Kerr's latest book set in the fictional j 
land of Deverry. The Dragon j 
Revenant is enjoyable and well writ- j 
ten, but there doesn’t seern to be any- j 
thing special about it. We’ve seen it all ! 
— Celtic fantasy, that, is — before, and j 
though very well done, Kerr’s book j 
doesn’t take us further. I 



The publisher claims that this is a 
stand-alone novel, but that’s mislead- 
ing. I interpreted “stand-alone” to 
mean that it is set in the same 
universe as her other books, and per- 
haps shares some characters, but is 
not part of the same story. It became 
clear to me early in the book, though, 
that that was not the case, and my 
perusal of the jackets of her previous 
books indicates that it is indeed a con- 
tinuation of the story they tell. I fol- 
lowed it all right, nevertheless, but I 
felt suckered, and my failure to have 
read the previous books became most 
annoying at the end, when I think I 
missed some of the implications of 
what happened. 

Kerr deserves credit for portraying 
two distinct societies, each with its 
superficially attractive aspects, but 
each with important elements that 
repel us: in Bardek, slavery, and in 
Deverry, the ill-treatment of com- 
moners. But in the end, as I said, this 
is a very good Celtic fantasy, but noth- 
ing more. 

Rating: 



i 



The White Isle 
By Darrell Schweitzer 
Weird Tales Library/Owlswick, 
1990 



139 pp., $18.95 

Darrell Schweitzer’s latest book is a j 
short fantasy novel that starts out as 
a beautiful fairy tale but soon turns 
into a horror story. The White Isle has 
some marvelous imagery, and 
Schweitzer has a grotesque and 
frightening imagination. It includes 
fine illustrations from Stephen 
Fabian. 

The book tells the tale of Prince ; 
Evnos, ruler of the island of Iankoros. | 
His life proceeds in storybook fashion i 
until the death of his beloved young j 
wife, Riacinera, in childbirth. Evnos 
becomes determined to retrieve 
Riacinera from Rannon, the god of 
death, and his mad quest brings doom 
to Iankoros and, in the long run, to 
himself. j 

Evnos is a well drawn, larger-than- j 
life protagonist. I found it difficult to j 
understand some of his actions, \ 
though, apart from the too-easy ex- 
planation of madness. Schweitzer’s 
use of language is very effective. The 
ending is not as meaningful as it 
might be; as the book says, it is a j 
fairy-tale ending, but we get no feeling | 



that this is the redemption of love 
from Evnos’s destructive obsession. 

The White Isle is not the sort of fan- 
tasy we see often these days. It's a 
lovely, then horrific, tale that is worth 
your while to seek out. 

Rating: tYt Y>Y+ 

For Younger Readers: 

Why I Left Harry's All-Night Ham- 
burgers and Other Stories 
Edited by Sheila Williams and Char- 
les Ardai 
Delacorte, 1990 
304 pp., $14.95 

This is an anthology of SF stories 
from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction 
Magazine (with one exception, an 
Asimov story from 1957) selected for 







SMaWiiiuntt 

. ., and . ... 

Charles Arda» 



illY i immmrv, 
RttMCHT unMBiinrcrnn 



and Other Stories tram 
Isaac Asimov's Selene* Fiction Magazine 



their appeal to young adults. Since 
the stories were written for adult 
magazine readers, there is no conde- 
scension or over-simplification, just 
clear, well written, and interesting 
stories. The editors have chosen to 
concentrate on stories set on Earth: 
ten of twelve (or eight of twelve, 
depending on how you count fan- 
tasies) are set on this planet. 

All the stories are good, and some 
are excellent. My favorites are the 
Hugo-winning title story, by 
Lawrence Watt-Evans, about the 
strange customers in an out-of-the- 
way hamburger joint; “And Who 
Would Pity a Swan?" by Connie Willis, 
a dazzling look at what happens after 
happily ever after; and “Empire 
State,’’ by Keith Minnion, a coming-of- 
age sea story in a drowned New York. 



36 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 



990 



From the Bookshelf 



States under a religious government 100 
years from now. The novel is in search 
of a publisher, but Stevens-Arce says 




Carol Heyer 



writer James Morrow likes it, so he’s 
optimistic. Morrow is the author of 
"Bible Stories for Adults No. 31: The 
Covenant” (Nov. -Dec. 1989). Morrow 
and his family have become friends with 
Stevens-Arce and his family and now 
keep in touch via a "workshop by mail.” 

When 1 spoke to Stevens-Arce, he and 
his wife Tita were busy putting together 
a volleyball tournament for 200 neigh- 
borhood kids. 

The art for "Oscar Carvalho” is by 
David Brian. Brian has done two covers 
for Science Fiction Chronicle, and he just 
sold two paintings for paperback novels 
in Europe. 

Brian says illustrating the futuristic 
sketch pad that plays a key part in the 
story reminded him of the days he used 
to do a lot of quick sketching as an 
editorial cartoonist for a Pasadena 
newspaper. Brian says he recently went 
horseback riding and hiking in the Hol- 
lywood hills. He says the bottom half of 
the Hollywood sign is covered with graf- 
fiti. 

Robert A. Metzger and gonzo SF are 
back with the story "Eyes of Chaos,” set 
in a sanatorium. As we've come to expect 




Elaine Radford 



from such fare, the protagonist gets 
stranger as the story unfolds, but there : 
is an underlying method to his madness. 

Metzger, who also writes our “What j 
If? — ” science column, is working on the I 
rewrite of his second novel, Reluctant j 
Messiah, about some aliens who want to 1 
convert us to their religion, which is j 
based on physics. Metzger's first novel, ! 
Quad World, is due out early next year i 
from ROC books. 

Metzger the research scientist says 
his company has been traveling him 
around a lot, or, as he puts it, “they pull : 
me out of my hole and put me on a ! 
plane.” His assignment: "looking slight- 
ly bumbling and weird and talking : 
science to military types.” So far this j 
year he's been to such places as Raleigh, 
N.C., Omaha, Neb., Des Moines, Iowa, ; 
and Dayton, Ohio (twice). ! 

“Eyes of Chaos" is illustrated by ; 
Carol Heyer. She is working on some i 
covers for TSR Books as well as interiors : 
for the TSR hardcover Legend and Lore. 
She’s also been branching into games 
: with a cover for Steve Jackson Games. 

Her picture book The Easter Story 
| sold out its first 45,000 copies and is into 
a second printing. Her next picture book, 
Excalibur, is due out in 1991 from Ideals | 
F*ublishing Corp. 

Elaine Radford brings us j 
"Birdbrain.” As an intelligence officer, i 
T-bird leaves homing pigeons in the j 
dust. Radford is the author of “Letting j 
Go” (Jan. -Feb. 1988) and "To Be An Auk” j 
(March-April 1988). When I spoke to j 
Radford she was “bogged down with j 
non-fiction articles” on her favorite sub- ■ 
j ject: birds. Her latest books for TFII 
include one on parrots and one on train- j 
ing cockatiels. 

As you can imagine, she has a variety 
of birds in her home aviary. Perhaps the ] 
most precocious is a young starling that 1 
she rescued from a cat’s mouth. She says ! 
he’s a terrific mimic. He can imitate all : 
her birds, her neighbor’s rooster, and the j 
local mockingbird. One day she played a \ 
static-filled tape of a canary song, and, 
sure enough, the starling sang it back to 
her, complete with static sounds. 

"Birdbrain" is illustrated by David ! 
Brian. 

"Three Boston Artists” is by Sarah , 
Smith. Someone once observed that part \ 
of a flower’s beauty lies in its being j 
j ephemeral. Art as a moment in time is 
explored in this story. i 

Smith has a Ph.D. in English from i 
Harvard and is a manager for a com- ; 
puter systems firm. She was a part of the 1 
team that created the interactive com- j 
puter-based fiction “King of Space.” ! 
She’s now working on a novel set in the | 
same world as "King of Space.” She’s also ; 
helping to put together Future Boston, a ; 
collection of linked stories by members j 
j of the Cambridge SF Workshop and 
j others, and she’s working on The Child i 
I Killer, a mystery set in 1906 Boston. ! 



Smith has a husband, Fred Perry, 
two kids, and a twenty-pound Maine 
Coon cat named Vicious. 




Sarah Smith 



"Three Boston Artists” is illustrated 
by Carol Heyer. 

"A Matter of Taste” examines the in- 
dignities of being lower on the food 
chain. It’s written by Esther M. Fries- 
ner, who began exploring alien cuisine 
concepts in the poem "Who Made the 
Stew on Betelgeuse II?” (Sept. -Oct. 
1988). She also wrote "The Doo-Wop 
Never Dies” (Nov. -Dec. 1989). 

She has three fantasy novels that 
have just come out, Hooray for Hol- 
lywood, The Water King's Laughter, and 
Sphynxes Wild. Another novel, Broad- 
way Banshee, is due out next February. 
She has short stories appearing in The 
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fic- 
tion as well. 

When I called her recently, she was 
away at Readercon in Lowell, Mass., 
participat ing in a number of panels. Her 
husband, Walter Stutzman, a software 
consultant, says he is just wrapping up 
a three-year project for the phone com- 




Esther Eriesner 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



38 



Aborigines 



Asimov’s “Profession” stands out 
as belonging to an older era, but it still 
holds up pretty well. The other con- 
tributors are Kim Stanley Robinson, 
Barry B. Longyear, James Patrick 
Kelly, Jane Yolen, Edward D. Hoch, 
Andrew Weiner, Somtow Sucharit- 
kul, and Judith Moffett. 

Most of the stories emphasize the 
sense of wonder, which is important 
in appealing to young adults. It is a 
fine anthology; there’s nothing ex- 
perimental or outrageous in it, but it’s 
a good introduction to recent short SF 
for young or old adults. 

Rating: tYtYtYtY 

Ashar of Qarius 
By Clare Cooper 
Gulliver/HBJ, 1990 
160 pp., $14.95 

When I received Ashar of Qarius, a 
science fiction novel intended for 
children aged 8-12, 1 was dismayed by 
the cover, which features Egyptian- 
looking pyramids, causing me to fear 



that it was some sort of ancient- 
astronauts nonsense. Fortunately, 
that fear was unfounded. Clare 
Cooper’s book is a fast-moving and 
suspenseful story of aliens and adven- 
ture. 

The story begins at the newly 
founded human colony on Plioctis. 
Kate Olafson and five-year-old Wil- 
liam Pitt leave the dome to chase after 
Kate’s cat, Timmy, but when they 
return to the dome, they find it aban- 
doned. They soon find out that the 
rest of the colony has been kidnapped 
by insectoid aliens. Then a strange 
being contacts Kate and William via 
their computer, a being who gives its 
name as Ashar and will say only that 
it is coming. 

The plot is exciting, and surpris- 
ingly cynical for a children’s book. 
This is certainly not a romantic view 
of space exploration and colonization. 
1 didn’t like the dichotomy between 
cold science and warm humanity — I 
don’t want children to think that 
scientists have to be dehumanized. 

Kate (whose age is not given but 



seems to be about 13) is an appealing 
and resourceful main character, and 
William, however brilliant he may be, 
still acts like a 5-year-old. I’m afraid 
the ending is a bit sexist, but in the 
face of the strong depiction of Kate 
through most of the book, that may 
not matter. 

The science fictional aspect is for 
the most part acceptable, but there 
were a couple of goofs that jumped out 
at me. I don’t expect hard-science ex- 
trapolation in a children’s book, but I 
shake my head when I come to a sen- 
tence like, “Kate had a fairly accurate 
idea of where the asteroid belt was in 
this galaxy." In fact, the author seems 
unclear on the concept of “asteroid”; 
at one point, people land on the 
“asteroid” Sorrid, and not only doesn’t 
it seem to be low gravity, but it has an 
atmosphere breathable by humans. 

Ashar of Qarius was exciting 
enough to keep this adult’s attention. 
Though far from flawless, it’s 
worthwhile. 

Rating: ">YsY>Y 



ABORIGINES 



By Laurel Lucas 



Encores 



F or the second year in a row con- , 
gratulations are in order for j 
several Aborigine award nominees, j 
Kristine K. Rusch, author of "Looking 
for Miriam" (Jan. -Feb. 1989), “Solo for : 
Concert Grand” (Jan. -Feb. 1988), and : 




James Stevens-Arce 



"Sing” (Feb. -March 1987), has again 
been nominated for the John W. Camp- 
bell Award for best new writer. Orson 
Scott Card, who wrote “Prior Restraint” 
(Oct.-Nov. 1986), George Alec Effinger, 
author of “No Prisoners” (Jan. -Feb. 
1990), Connie Willis, who wrote “Circus 
Story” (Feb. -March 1987), and Mike 
Resnick, who has a story in this issue 
(see below), have been nominated for 
Hugo Awards (see below for the 
categories). Our editor, Charles C. Ryan, 
has been nominated a second time for a 
Hugo Award for best editor. 

Speaking of encores, we have two 
stories from several authors in this issue 
who have written for us previously. One 
of them is James Stevens-Arce. As 
James A. Stevens he gave us “Borboleta” j 
in the July-Aug. 1987 issue. The Puerto \ 
Rico resident has since added his ; 
mother’s maiden name to the end of his ; 
in proper Spanish style. 

And now comes “Oscar Carvalho — 




Spatial," a story of first contact. Both 
“Oscar Carvalho” and “Borboleta” are 
derived from the same novel-in- 
progress. He has also finished another 
novel titled Soulsaver, about a United 




David Brian 



Aborigines 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



37 




Mmi 



pany in Connecticut. 

"A Matter of Taste” is illustrated by 
Larry Blamire. Blamire had just 




Joel Henry Sherman 



finished writing a screenplay when 1 
spoke to him, and he was still feeling 
high about flying out to see the opening 
of his play “Jump Camp” at the Alliance 
Repertory Theater in Los Angeles. For 
this illustration, Blamire says he took 
out a lot of books on Washington, D.C., 
to get his aliens in the correct setting. 

“The Bogart Revival” by Joel Henry 
Sherman has a premise that would be 
great news for nostalgia fans, but bad 
news for struggling artists. 

Nostalgic Aboriginal fans can look up 
Sherman’s previous story "Finder’s Fee” 
(Dec. -Jan. 1987). Sherman’s latest book, 
Corpseman (Del Rey), is about a slave- 
based prison system of the future. His 
novel Random Factor is due out in April 
of next year. 

Sherman’s other career has him 
working for the state of California as a 
loss control consultant. He investigates 
job-related accidents and promotes job 




Charles Lang (on table) 



safety consciousness. Sherman has a 
wife, Carolyn, and a baby daughter, 
Courtney, who apparently has scientific 
talents. He says she has been conducting 
“warm-fusion experiments in the in- 
famous Pampers laboratories.” 

“The Bogart Revival” is illustrated by 
Charles Lang. Lang says he is working 
j on art for his portfolio and on a movie 
J poster for a low-budget horror film called 
i Crawdaddys. 

j Lang says the movie poster field can 
be lucrative, with some artists getting as 
much as $100,000 for a poster. But he 
says it takes lots of guts and determina- 
tion to succeed, because success often 
hinges on meeting ridiculous deadlines 
and out-competing the half-dozen other 
artists who are typically hired to il- 
lustrate a big-budget movie. 

Mike Resnick updates medieval 
' folklore with the story of the Wandering 
I Jew in "How 1 Wrote the New Testa- 
ment, Ushered in the Renaissance, and 
Birdied the 17th Hole at Pebble Beach.” 




Mike Resnick 



Resnick is the author of Ivory, Paradise, 
Santiago, Second Contact, and four 
“Kirinyaga” short stories for Fantasy 
and Science Fiction and Isaac Asimov's. 
He’s been working on the Oracle trilogy 
for Ace. 

Resnick’s wife Carol owns a kennel. 
He says he loves collies and horse racing 
and has been on four African safaris 
since 1986. 

"How I Wrote the New Testament” is 
illustrated by Lucy Synk. Synk says she 
will be an artist guest of honor twice this 
summer: at Delacon in Kansas City, 
Mo., and at the gaming convention 
Glathricon in Evansville, Ind. She says 
she’s been doing illustrations for the 
gaming companies TSR and Steve Jack- 
son Games. 

Holly Lisle Deaton is the author of 
the poem “To an Android Lover.” Deaton 
has seen her fantasy story 
"Glassmaster” published recently in 
Stained Glass Quarterly and has had 
several poems published in Being. She 
has two fantasy novels, Faeriefire in the 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 



j Mist and Minerva Wakes, in search of a 
j publisher and is working on a "twisted 
I SF trilogy" with Chris Guin called The 




Lucy Synk 



Tattooed Dragon. 

Deaton is a registered nurse with two 
I children. She says her hobbies include 
I hanging out with the rest of the gang in 
| the Fayetteville, N.C., "Unknown 
Writers’ Group,' playing guitar, and 
writing songs with shocking lyrics. 

Hugo Award Nominees 

Needless to say, our Aborigines men- 
tioned above aren’t the only ones 
nominated for a Hugo Award this year. 
The following is a list of the 1989 Hugo 
Award nominees: 

I Best Novel of 1989: 
i The Boat of a Million Years, by Poul 
Anderson (Tor) 

! Prentice Alvin, by Orson Scott Card 
i (Tor) ^ 

' A Fire in the Sun, by George Alec 
Effinger (Doubleday/Foundation) 

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons 
(Doubleday/Foundation, Bantam 
Spectra) 



Grass, by Sheri S. Topper 
(Doubleday/Foundation) 




Holly Lisle Deaton 



1990 



Aborigines 



39 





Best Novella of 1989: 

“The Mountains of Mourning,” by 
Lois McMaster Bujold ( Analog , May 
1989; Borders of Infinity, Baen) 

“A Touch of Lavender,” by Megan 
Lindholm ( IASFM , Nov. 1989) 

“Tiny Tango," by Judith Moffett 
C IASFM , Feb. 1989) 

“The Father of Stones,” by Lucius 
Shepard (IASFM, Sept. 1989; The 
Father of Stones, WSFA Press) 

“Time-Out,” by Connie Willis 
C IASFM , July 1989) 

Best Novelette of 1989: 

“Dogwalker,” by Orson Scott Card 
(IASFM, Nov. 1989) 

“Everything But Honor,” by George 
Alec Effmger (IASFM, Feb. 1989; What 
Might Have Been, Vol. 1, Bantam 
Spectra) 

“The Price of Oranges,” by Nancy 
Kress (IASFM, April 1989) 

“For I Have Touched the Sky,” by 
Mike Resnick (F&SF, Dec. 1989) 

“Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter 
Another,” by Robert Silverberg (IASFM, 
June 1989; Time Gate, Baen) 

“At the Rialto,” by Connie Willis 
(Omni, Oct. 1989; The Microverse, Ban- 
tam Spectra) 

Best Dramatic Presentation of 1989: 
The Abyss 

The Adventures of Baron 
Munchausen 
Batman 
Field of Dreams 

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 
Best Short Story of 1989: 

“Lost Boys,” by Orson Scott Card 
(F&SF, Oct. 1989) 

“Boobs," by Suzy McKee Charnas 
(IASFM, July 1989) 

"Computer Friendly,” by Eileen 
Gunn (IASFM, June 1989) 

“The Return of William Proxmire,” by 
Larry Niven (What Might Have Been, 
Vol. 1, Bantam Spectra) 

“Dori Bangs,” by Bruce Sterling 
(IASFM, Sept. 1989) 

"The Edge of the World,” by Michael 
Swanwick (Full Spectrum II, 
Doubleday/F oundation) 

Best Non-Fiction Book of 1989: 
Astounding Days, by Arthur C. 
Clarke (Gollancz, Bantam Spectra) 
Harlan Ellison’s Watching, by Har- 
lan Ellison (Underwood-Miller) 

Grumbles from the Grave, by Robert 
A. Heinlein, edited by Virginia Heinlein 
(Del Rey) 

Dancing at the Edge of the World, by 
Ursula K. Le Guin (Grove) 

The World Beyond the Hill, by Alexei 
and Cory Panshin (Tarcher) 

Noreascon Three Souvenir Book, 
edited by Greg Thokar (MCFI Press) 
Best Professional Editor of 1989: 
Ellen Datlow 
Gardner Dozois 
Edward L. Ferman 
David G. Hartwell 
Beth Meacham 



iUn Snbroib Hober 

(u Tit Pi aj2o[oyi£.x to Jbhahs.yiza'is ) 
!By ccHoLtij Xlde Xhsaton 

d^hall 0 conifiaie, you to my mictowavi? 

^\jou ai& xeliabU, whcic it ix not. 

Ot oftin Uavcx my food too bu%md to xavi — 

SBut wlun L J want 1.1 hot, my Love, you i eJiOD. 

<zAfoi can the television be youi eyuul — 

(With dieaiy leiunt, yame xhowx. mindlcxx xoa/jx ... 

(! hofie O nev e\ ice another x eyuel — 

^Idnle xx xeen thiouyh ou"i lijlex ctoxxhai'ud xcojjdx. 

Oh, men of flcxh will chany e and xlowly fade, 
cXfnd lose fjoxxcxxion of thcii xticnyth and y\ace, 

!But you, who in men x finext imaye ate made, 

^l^ill nevei have a wtinkle touch you 7 face. 

' Ijoui jiaxxion and you\ Luit o^ten bewi tef, — 

<RatOM e you bext becuuxe oj youi O'JU x witch.. 



Charles C. Ryan 
Stanley Schmidt 
Best Semiprozine of 1989: 

Locus (ed. Charles N. Brown) 

The New York Review of Science Fic- 
tion, (eds. Kathryn Cramer, David G. 
Hartwell, and Gordon Van Gelder) 
Thrust (ed. D. Douglas Fratz) 
Science Fiction Chronicle (ed. 
Andrew 1. Porter) 

Interzone (ed. David Pringle) 

Best Fanzine of 1989: 

File 770 (ed. Mike Glyer) 

FOSFAX (ed. Timothy Lane) 

Lan’s Lantern (ed. George "Lan" Las- 
kowski) 

Pirate Jenny (ed. Pat Mueller) 

The Mad 3 Party (ed. Leslie Turek) 
Best Professional Artist of 1989: 

Jim Bums 
Thomas Canty 
David Cherry 
James Gurney 
Tom Kidd 
Don Maitz 
Michael Whelan 
Best Fan Writer of 1989: 

Mike Glyer 
Arthur D. Hlavaty 
Dave Langford 
Evelyn Leeper 
Leslie Turek 

Best Fan Artist of 1989: 

Steve Fox 



I Teddy Harvia 
Merle Insinga 
Joe Mayhew 
Stu Shiffman 
Taral Wayne 

John W. Campbell Award of 1989 
I (not a Hugo) for Best New Writer of 
j 1988-1989 (sponsored by Davis Publica- 
' tions): 

[ John Cramer (1) 

Nancy Collins (1) 

Katherine Neville (1) 

Kristine Kathryn Rusch (2) 

Allen Steele (2) 

(1) first year of eligibility 

(2) second and final year of eligibility 
; Best Original Artwork of 1989 (NOT 
j a Hugo): 

I Quozl, cover by James Gurney (Ace) 

The Stress of Her Regard, cover by 
S James Gumey (Ace) 
i Rim runners, cover by Don Maitz 

(Warner/Questar) 

, Hyperion, cover by Gary Ruddell 
(Doubleday/Foundation, Bantam 
Spectra 

Paradise, cover by Michael Whelan 
| (Tor) 

j The Renegades of Pern, cover by 
, Michael Whelan (Del Rey) □ 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 






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Aboriginal Science Fiction — .July A .y.jsl 1 990 



41 






Oscar Carvalho, Spacial 

By James Stevens- Arce 

Art by David Brian 



C arvalho stands in the airlock, double-checking the 
stressed leather of his space armor before signaling 
for decompression. His hands stumble through the drill, 
nervously testing seals, joints, pressure points, life sup- 
port systems. 

He never expected to be selected for a mission of this 
magnitude, but of the personnel aboard the Sao Tome, he 
is the only logical choice. The problem is that he has never 
been so nervous in his life, and his body clamors at him to 
turn tail and run. But what he wants is simply this: not 
to shame himself. He’ll be happy if he can just do his job 
and do it well, with no call for flash or heroics. 

And live to tell the tale. 

"13 attic Ensign Oscar Carvalho was putting the final 
-^-'touches to his sketch of Nina Mboye’s fascinating 
Afran face. He moved his caneta tinteiro with practiced 
dexterity over his sheet of stressed paper, deftly reproduc- 
ing the intricate design of scars that her tribe’s matriarchs 
had gouged into the living flesh of her cheeks and forehead 
as the climax of the rite of passage that had marked the 
end of her childhood. 

Though she treated it with a certain ill-disguised con- 
tempt, the Captain allowed Carvalho to indulge his hobby 
during his off-duty hours, so long as he didn’t interfere 
with on-duty personnel.. Today, Carvalho sketched in an 
untrafficked corner of the Sao Tome's Communications 
Section next to a bulkhead covered in fuchsia and wander- 
ing jew. He was adjusting the ink pressure in his caneta 
when Nina Mboye spotted the Other ship. 

“Sensor contact with alien vessel,” she announced mat- 
ter-of-factly. 

Every man and woman in Communications turned 
swiftly to see, but Nina acted unperturbed. She had pick- 
ed up the ion trails of Other ships on her screens before. 
Her previous total of five Sightings already placed her far 
ahead of any other SensorTech in the Fleet. But this time 
was different. 

Normally, immediately following multitronics contact 
the trail would veer off sharply and arrow for the nearest 
stargate, while the Spaciales vessel held steady and mere- 
ly observed. Ships of the Brasilian Space Corps sailed 
under standing orders issued by the Lands of the 
Southern Cross to maintain course and take no action 
which could be interpreted as hostile during a Sighting. 

Only this Other ship wasn’t running through the usual 
paces. It was slanting into a vector on the same plane as 
the Sao Tome, a trajectory which Nina’s ordinador calcu- 
lated would loop it into a parallel course just off the Sao 
Tome's port side six lightseconds downrange. 

Carvalho figured he’d best make himself scarce, and 
slipped his drawing tools into a stressed leather shoulder 
envelope. 

Nina alerted the Bridge. 



C arvalho signals for decompression. The whoosh of 
escaping atmosphere fades into the silence of 
vacuum. 

“Band test," the young Ensign says, conscious for an 
instant of the ligrHt pressure of the larynx-mic against his 
throat. 

He hears ComTech Sekela’s throaty Afran voicc:'“Band 
open and clear.” Then the Skipper’s clear soprano voice 
with its charming Nova Brasilia lilt: “Go, Ensign. And 
may luck go with you.” 

“Thank you, senhora.” 

G roup Leader Carola Ramal had been sleeping for 
barely 45 minutes when the Other’s ion trail 
registered on the Sao Tome's sensor screens. But she came 
awake fast when the First buzzed her bunk with the 
report. A Sighting on her first command! Exciting, yes, 
but worrisome, too. To what number did this raise the 
total of official Sightings? 

Oh, no, she thought, eyeing the purple-tinted, black- 
veined leaves of the pellionia that ran riot across her cabin 
overhead’s trellis, I'm not superstitious, but why the un- 
lucky seventeenth? 

Minutes later, on the bridge, she exchanged a quick 
glance with her First, Group Commander Heriberto Gon- 
calves. 

“Is that damaged sub-light comunicador back on-line?" 
she asked. 

“Aye, senhora, all communications systems functional. 
Feeding all data into Ship's Log and Permanent Service 
Log.” 

“Bern. Good.” 

“What do you think, Carola?” Goncalves said, dropping 
into informal chat. 

“Frankly, Berto, I don’t know what to think yet. Got 
any ideas?” The First nodded. 

“I think they finally want to talk.” 

C arvalho watches the airlock port lift like a stage 
curtain to reveal the Other ship and its armored 
emissary posed against the starry backdrop of space, both 
shrunken to toy size by distance. He clambers out onto the 
Sao Tome's stressed wood hull, neutralizes the sticking 
action of his bootsoles, and reluctantly pushes off in the 
direction of the alien. 

|_?attle Sergeant Antonio Eanes sat in the Briefing 
-®—'Room with two officers. One looked very young and 
worried, the other very young and excited. One deck 
below, in the Ordnance Room, the Sergeant’s squad 
waited in combat armor. 

The sensor screen showed the Other ship holding firm 



Copyright © 1990 by Jaim*s Slovens- Arce 

43 



Oscar Carvalho, Spacial Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



iSH8§Sii 



less than a kilometro off the port side. Eanes stared 
stolidly. One of the Techs from Hydroponics broke off from 
watering the spiderplants and African violets which clung 
like ivy to the Briefing Room’s bulkheads. As if hyp- 
notized, he watched the screen, the stressed leather 
watering bag hugged to his chest completely forgotten. 

Seated together several places over from the Sergeant, 
the two young officers exchanged nervous glances. The 
younger one felt the sour swelling of tension in his 
stomach, but gave no sign. He didn’t want to embarrass 
himself in front of the Sergeant, who had a reputation for 
nervelessness under stress. 

“Do you think it’s a trap. Lino?” Carvalho said. 

"No, Oscar, I think they want to make contact this 
time,” Lino said thoughtfully. “Or it could be a trap.” 
Count on Battle Ensign Lino Tavares never to commit 
himself too early. 

“They’ve been edging closer for the last six hours. 
Another ten minutos and you'll be able to reach out the 
airlock and knock on their hull. I hope the Skipper knows 
what she’s doing.” 

“You can bet a month’s pay she’s doing exactly what 
Master Control ordered six hours ago." 

“Aren’t you ... a little nervous, Lino?” 

“Me? I’m dirtying my unders. I don’t have the 
Sergeant’s iron nerve.” 

Lino grinned at the Sergeant, but Eanes remained 
expressionless. Lino shrugged and turned back to Carval- 
ho, eyes burning with excitement. 

“But the truth, Oscar, is that I wouldn’t trade places 
with anyone in the Fleet. Do you realize what is actually 
happening here? First contact with an intelligent alien 
species! And we are here. A part of history. No matter 
what happens." 

“That’s one way to look at it, I guess," Carvalho said 
dubiously. 

“It’s the only way." Lino grinned, and his eyes flashed. 

“ Senhores ,” the Sergeant said. Both officers looked over 
inquiringly. With a slight pursing of his full lips, the 
Sergeant indicated the screen. 

A blister was erupting on the skin of the Other’s 
boomerang-shaped vessel. As they watched, fascinated, 
the blister swelled ... 

... and swelled ... 

... and swelled ... 

... and popped, spitting forth a space-armored figure. 

The figure looked humanoid, and for that the four 
watchers were glad. 

Carvalho breathed easier. If they look like us, he 
thought gratefully, there's a chance there’ll be other 
similarities. Then the full implications of the thought 
sank in and the tension returned in a rush. 

“Well,” the AgriTech said, “at least they’re not intel- 
ligent spiders or slavering blobs like in the Ponzi dos 
Andes stories.” 

Lino and Oscar exploded in laughter, but its brittleness 
betrayed that each had secretly harbored a similar fear. 

The Other ship and its backdrop of stars looked mo- 
tionless, unchanging, no more real than a painting, while 
the space-armored figure seemed to expand, as though it 
were a balloon being inflated through its undulating um- 
bilical cord. But the men watching knew it was an optical 
illusion, that the apparent swelling indicated rapid move- 
ment in their direction. 



Roughly midway between the two vessels, suspended 
between the silvery boomerang of its mothership and the 
Sao Tome’s interconnected discs of blond stressed wood, 
the figure drifted to a halt. 

Carvalho wondered if the creature ouL there felt as 
nauseated from tension as he did or as icily calm as he 
pretended to be. Suddenly he darted across the cabin. 

"What is it?” Lino said. 

“My sketchbook!” 

“Your sketchbook? What for?" 

“I’m missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!" 

“Are you louco, Oscar? I’m sure everything’s being 
recorded — ” 

“Of course it is. But that’s all they’ll be. recordings, with 
no soul. I’m the only artist aboard. Don’t, you understand?" 

Lind shook his head in disbelief, glanced at the Ser- 
geant, and twirled the tip of his index finger next to his 
! temple. 

Carvalho suddenly felt a little lightheaded, and he 
wondered whether the t hick scent of African violets might 
be the cause. Cheeks burning, he ignored Lino’s patroniz- 
ing expression, produced a stick of charcoal from his 
beltpouch, and began roughing in the scene. 

In the foreground he placed the Sergeant’s heavy- 
boned, expressionless face, outlined by white light from 
the sensor screen, calm, waiting. In the focal area of the 
composition, he limned in the screen display containing 
the boomerang-shaped spacer, backlit by this system’s 
white dwarf star, etched against the brilliant backdrop of 
O Coo, the Dog Cloud, the smoothness of its silvery skin 
marred only by a tiny blister from which extruded the half 
kilometro of umbilical cord which kept the alien alive 
while it floated patiently in the void. 

Waiting. 

glnce launched, Carvalho experiences the usual tem- 
^-^porary sense of disorientation. For a few seconds he 
feels like the only fixed object in the universe. The Sao 
Tome seems to float away from him, while the alien and 
its ship appear to drift nearer. Even the distant stars seem 
to revolve in stately majesty about him. 
j The sensation passes, and Carvalho corrects his 
glidepath by firing brief, controlled bursts of pressurized 
’ helium from the tip of his index finger. In the near 
Absolute Zero of space, the gas freezes instantly into 
streams of crystals which spark violently as sunlight 
glints off their edges. 

i I ooks like our move, senhora.'' Group Commander 
'Goncalves said. 

Carola Ramal nodded grimly. She didn’t relish the 
situation. True, the rewards, in terms of career goals, 
would doubtless be great should she acquit herself well, 

! but the enormousness of the risk, the responsibility .... 

"What does Master Control advise?" she said. 

J ComTech Chandra Sekela looked up from her stressed 
I teak console. “Still standing by on t.ime-lag, senhora.” Like 
I Nina Mboye, Sekela bore on her face the fine intricate 
! tracery of scars Afrans considered beautiful, as well as a 
symbol of adulthood. 

The console chimed. “Incoming, senhora." Sekela 
handed her the hardcopy barely an instant after the 
end-of-squirt signal trilled. 

Ramal scanned it with a frown. 



44 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



Oscar Carvalho, Spacial 



“We’re to send our top combat trooper out to see what 
the Other wants, and ‘take all precautions.' " She looked 
at the First. “Whatever that means. Under no circumstan- 
ces are we to allow our ship to be taken.” 

She paused and, for a moment, her eyes grew remote. 
The First guessed she might be appraising her inner 
resources in light of the coming ordeal. Ramal’s features 
grew grimmer, and she continued speaking as though she 
had never broken off. 

“And, due to the communication time-lag, we’re to ‘use 
our best judgment whenever the pressure of events 
prevents timely consultation.’ ” 

Goncalves’s eyes widened in sympathy. The Skipper 
could say "we" till every star in the Southern Cross burned 
out and collapsed, but the final responsibility remained 
singularly and unequivocally hers. He envied her not one 
whit. 

Carols Ramal sighed. “Bern, now we earn our pay. 
Sekela, chime Sergeant Eanes to the Bridge. He’s just 
been promoted to ambassador.” 

C arvalho tries to keep his breathing shallow and 
regular, but it still sounds abnormally loud to him. 
He had hoped that when the waiting and speculation were 
ended and the time for action at hand, he would be able 
to function quickly, cleanly, with no ghost of fear to slow 
his muscles or cloud his judgment at a crucial moment. 
But no. Despite all his efforts, his pulse races and 
adrenalin floods his bloodstream. 

Oh, Deus, he thinks, I think I'm going to be sick. 

X n the Briefing Room, Carvalho eyed Eanes’s space-ar- 
-®-mored image which now appeared on the sensor 
screen, and hastily roughed in details of a reference 
sketch of the Sergeant approaching the alien. In it, Eanes 
appeared with his right arm upraised, hand open to show 
he came unarmed, while his left index finger fired a 
harmless burst of helium crystals in the alien's direction 
to cancel forward motion. 

The alien bobbed lazily at the end of its umbilical cord 
and raised both hands to show them empty, then clapped 
them soundlessly three times. A pause while the Sergeant 
listened to the Skipper’s instructions, then he too raised 
both hands and clapped them three times. 

Seemingly satisfied, the alien withdrew a rectangular 
metal plate from a slot in its thigh and gestured for Eanes 
to move closer. After another pause, the Sergeant com- 
plied. The alien showed the plate to Eanes, then waggled 
its hand briskly over it before handing it to the Sergeant 
with an expectant air. 

“This is stupid, Lino,” Carvalho said. “He can’t expect 
the Sergeant to understand their writing.” 

“Maybe it isn’t writing. Maybe it’s something mathe- 
matical that two intelligent species would have in com- 
mon. You know, the value of pi or the Rule of the 
Hypotenuse. ” Tavares suddenly looked thoughtful 
“Or...." 

“Then we’ve sent the wrong man. The Sergeant’s the 
obvious choice in a crisis situation — nobody’s better in 
combat — but he’s no math whiz.” 

"I don’t believe it ....” 

“What?" 

“Drawing!" 

"What?!" 



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Oscar Carvalho, Spacial 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



45 



“The Other was drawing pictures for the Sergeant! Bet 
a month’s pay! And now he wants the Sergeant to sketch 
for himV 

Carvalho frowned. “But, Lino, the Sergeant can’t draw 
a circle without tracing paper.” 

Lino looked at Oscar with new eyes. “And that 
means ....” 

“Oh, no!” 

“Oh, yes!” 

Carvalho’s call code chimed. 

C arvalho worries his lower lip between his teeth. 
Seen from the airlock, the alien looked small, doll- 
like, unthreatening. But now, up close, he looms. 

Carvalho knows he is no hero, has always known it. As 
a child, he avoided boleobol, kick-boxing, any frankly 
physical sport. Never took a dare, always fled a fight. The 
reason was simple: he feared pain. Or perhaps what he 
feared was the idea of pain. Those times he was injured 
despite all his' efforts, he found that the pain was, after 
all, bearable. What was unbearable was the anticipation 
of pain. 

Other children called him coward and he said nothing, 
mocked him and he did nothing. But the humiliation he 
accepted silently inflicted a pain of its own — different, 
but ultimately worse. This pain he truly could not bear, 
and so at last he set to prove himself no coward. 

Who were the bravest, most respected men and 
women? O Spac tales, the spacers. No debate. To regain 
his self-respect, then, he would become one of them. So he 
struggled to get into the Academia Spacial Almirante do 
Nascimento, then battled to survive a system designed to 
weed out the weak and fearful. At the same time, he 
fought to conquer that part of himself that longed to quit 
and run. 

Though instructors who encouraged his interest in art 
were few, he stuck with it. He’d been blessed with a deft 
talent for drawing, and it gave him pleasure, along with 
a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. From military 
history he learned there had been warrior-poets in earlier 
ages, so why should he be denied his dash of artistry? 

Perhaps to make up for it, after graduation he 
deliberately chose the most dangerous and demanding 
arm of the Space Services — the Battle Corps. Though no 
one has called him coward for a long time, he still suffers 
grave inner doubts. He feels he has never been tested. 
Till now. 

As he drifts closer to the alien, Carvalho's frantic 
heartbeat echoes in his eardrums. He forces himself to 
ignore his body’s flight response and act the trained battle 
officer, calm and steady and observant. 

Now he can make out the upper half of the alien's face 
through the Other’s helmet port. Eyes: small, almost 
beady, close-set, and ... red! Nose: mashed, splayed across 
its face like an unskilled kick-boxer’s. Skin: the color of 
walnut shells, but stretched smooth and taut over high, 
prominent cheekbones. The Brasilian’s view is too limited 
to tell whether or not the alien has hair. 

Something besides intelligence burns in those scarlet 
eyes, Carvalho thinks. Wariness and ... fear? Is he afraid 
of me? 



a reassuring smile, but thinks better of it. The baring of 
teeth may be a hostile act to this creature. This reminds 
him of the precariousness of his situation, and he forces 
himself through a quick set of deep-breathing exercises to 
quiet his suddenly pounding heart. 

He is barely back in control when, on the Skipper’s 
orders, he raises both hands to show them empty, then 
claps them three times. Too swiftly. 

He begins to backroll in reaction. He flips completely 
upside-down in relation to the alien before he thinks to 
fire the bursts of helium that will cancel his spin and right 
him. 

He feels like an idiot, and wonders if the alien is 
laughing at him. (Pay no attention to that man slipping on 
the banana peel, please!) He is sure Lino must be howling 
on the Briefing Room deck. 

Well, he’s not likely to be afraid of me now. Maybe he’ll 
think it’s just our way of putting a stranger at ease. In any 
case, there’s no time to think about it now. 

“Ensign,” the Skipper says in Carvalho's earpiece, "are 
you in trouble?” 

“No, senhora. Everything’s under control.” 

A long pause. Just as he used to when as a child other 
children mocked him, Carvalho flushes hotly. The Skip- 
per must be thinking she’d been crazy to send this bum- 
bling idiot on so delicate and important a mission. 

“Are you sure?” 

“Aye, senhora. I’m okay now.” 

“Very well, son. Carry on." 

Son? The Skipper’s only a dozen years my senior, Car- 
valho thinks indignantly. Then he realizes she wants to 
put him at ease, to let him know she still considers her 
confidence well-placed. 

Suddenly, appearing clumsy or foolish doesn’t matter 
anymore. Carvalho wants to acquit himself well, if only to 
repay the Skipper’s trust. Besides, he burns to see the 
metal plate the alien showed the Sergeant. 

Feigning an air of confidence, Carvalho points to the 
plate’s slot on the alien’s thigh, and holds out his hand for 
it. The Other releases the plate and, using a slim metal 
rod, sketches rapidly on it. Carvalho marvels at the 
creature’s fluidity of line, as well as its ability to maintain 
suit attitude while it works. 

Finally, it hands the plate to Carvalho. He blinks in 
surprise. The Other has divided the metal page into 
panels and sketched in scenes. 

They lack dialogue balloons, and an alien feel suffuses 
the silver and black linework and shadowing, but the 
drawings put Carvalho in mind of his childhood chum, 
Rogerio Plateira, who draws the heroic adventure strip 
Ponzi das Andes, Spacial for the faxes. Oscar can almost 
hear Rogerio’s reaction when the details of the encounter 
with the alien become public: “At last! Proof! The comics 
represent the only truly universal art form. As I’ve always 
said.” 

Carvalho chuckles softly, and returns his attention to 
the metal plate. 

“What tickles you, Ensign?" 

“Senhora?" he says. 

“A moment ago, you sounded ... upset. Now, you sound 
... amused.” 



Amusement and not a little pleasure mix in with his “The alien’s drawn a sort of comic strip sequence, as 

fear. Maybe a little, ah? the Sergeant described.” 

The notion lifts his spirits. He starts to give the alien “And you find it funny?” 

Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



46 



Oscar Carvalho, Spacial 









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“Ahm ... no, senhora. I find the idea of it funny.” 

A pause. “Noted.” 

Carvalho clears his throat and forces himself to become 
all business. “First panel: our two ships come together in 
space. Second panel: they depart in opposite directions, 
each leaving behind an ion trail.” 

The Ensign scans ahead briefly. “No, wait,” he corrects 
himself hurriedly. “That must be the third panel, not the 
second. The panel directly below the first shows the Other 
and myself in spacesuits meeting midway between our 
•hips.” 

Carvalho can just distinguish Group Commander 
' : oncalves's voice off-mic: “Ah, they must read from top to 
L .n." 

The Skipper: “But they still read the columns from left 
to right..” Her voice comes back on-mic. “Then what, En- 

sig:. 

“Well, as I said, senhora, in the third panel, both ships 
leove. In the panel below that, the Other ship orbits a 
ringed planet. Then it leaves, accompanied now by a much 
larger ship. Our ship does the same: orbits a planet, then 
leaves accompanied by a much larger ship.” 

Goncalves’s voice: “ 'My daddy can beat up your 
daddy'?” 

Ra mal grunts. “Deus, I hope not.” 

“The four ships meet back here,” Carvalho continues. 
"Or at least I think so. He's drawn the sun from panel one 
in the background. They put up a lifebubble at midpoint 
between the ships and we all go inside and talk.” 

“Talk?" 

“There’s a head sketch of one of them without a helmet. 
Little broken lines come out of his mouth. Then there’s a 
sketch of one of us wearing a helmet, with little broken 
lines coming from the mouth area.” 

Ramal’s voice: “Is it saying we can’t breathe its atmos- 
phere?” 

Carvalho studies the sketch of the helmetless alien. 
They do have hair, or something very similar. Maybe a 
fine, short fur. 

Goncalves: "Probably. On the other hand, maybe it just 
doesn’t know what we look like without a helmet.” 

The alien taps the edge of the plate in Oscar’s hands 
with the butt end of the writing tool and the drawings 
vanish. Then it hands him the sketch rod and waggles its 
hand at Carvalho. 

"He wants me to draw, senhora .” 

“Go ahead, Ensign.” 

“Aye, senhora." Pause. “What shall I draw, senhora ?” 
A pause at the other end. Finally: “A very good ques- 
tion, Ensign." 

“Aye, senhora.” 

“Try drawing one of us without a helmet and with little 
broken lines coming out of the mouth and see what the 
Other does,” the Captain says. 

Carvalho dashes off a quick, scarless profile of Nina 
Mboye and shows it to the alien. 

“What's his reaction, Ensign?” 

“He’s drawing a frontal view of Nina, senhora, which is 
odd, since I drew her in profile.” 

"Of whom?” 

Carvalho flushes. "Ahm ... of the ... face I drew, senhora. 
I sketched SensorTech Mboye. I did an inkpix of her 
earlier today, and it was the first face that came to mind.” 
Carvalho studies the alien’s remarkably accurate frontal 

48 



rendering. 

“Senhora, this is odd. He’s drawn Mboye’s eyes crossed 
and turned upward. Now he's drawing another picture of 
Mboye. It’s identical, except the eyes aren't crossed and 
the mouth is speaking. He’s pointing at the cross-eyed 
picture, then at the talking picture, and now he’s ...." 
Carvalho gasps. 

“He’s what? What is he doing, Carvalho?” 

Silence. 

"Carvalho!” 

“Senhora! He’s shrugging, senhora !" 

“Shrugging ...?” 

Goncalves: “He doesn’t know whether his atmosphere 
will kill us or not!" 

“But, senhora!” Carvalho yells. “Senhora, he shrugged! 
He hunched his shoulders and raised his hands palms 
upward, just as we do! We have a gesture in common!” 
Ramal: “Why do you keep referring to the alien as 'he,' 
Ensign?” 

Brought up short, Carvalho considers. “I don’t know ... 

I ... he feels like a he, senhora." 

Sekela: “Message from Master Control incoming, sen- 
hora.” 

Ramal: “Stand by, Ensign." 

C arvalho feels like a child with a new friend. The 
aliens draw comics, they have two eyes and one nose 
and a single mouth they use for speech, they have two 
arms and two legs, they breathe atmosphere and grow 
hair or something very like it on their heads, and they 
goddam shrug! 

They are people, not bug-eyed monsters. Reaching out 
across space, one culture touching another. Hands across 
the heavens. 

Carvalho feels an almost overpowering urge to hug the 
Other like some long-lost brother, but he holds back, 
reminding himself that he has no way of knowing how the 
alien might interpret the gesture, whether he’ll take it as 
friendly or hostile. And that is when he suddenly realizes 
that in the excitement of the moment, in the heat of 
completing the task at hand and getting it right, he has 
forgotten to be frightened. 

“All right, Ensign. Master Control says yes. We’ll meet 
them back here for a chat. Draw the four ships and the 
lifebubble, as he did, and the head sketches of the two of 
us talking to each other.” 

“Aye, aye, senhora!” 

Carvalho’s elation at the decision and at his own newly 
confirmed steadiness under stress shows in the en- 
thusiasm with which he grasps the plate and rod and 
starts sketching. He doesn’t even notice at first that the 
force of his movements has started him revolving slowly. 
When he finally does notice and almost casually cancels 
his motion with a few expert bursts of helium, he is 
unembarrassed by what he would earlier have considered 
a major loss of dignity. 

When the Brasilian finally returns the plate, the alien 
studies it for almost a full minute before slipping it back 
into the slot on its thigh. Carvalho assumes that the alien 
must be communicating with its superiors shipboard. 
Then the Other nods — he nods! — his agreement, claps 
hands ceremonially three times, and waits for Carvalho 
to do the same. 

Enthusiastically (this guy nodded, just like real 

Oscar Carvalho, Spacial 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 




people), Carvalho nods back and claps three times. He 
catches himself barely in time to keep from somersaulting 
backwards again, although he certainly feels happy 
enough to turn cartwheels. 

For a moment, human and alien hang motionless in 
space between their mother vessels, eyeing one another. 
Carvalho feels a sense of wariness, of suspicion and icy 
fear seeping back into his belly. They are the repre- 
sentatives of two peoples about to enter a relationship 
from which there may well be no turning back. Is this a 
warrior taking the measure of an enemy? 

Well, if he is, let him. For Carvalho has found — to his 
surprise and great pleasure — that though he may never 



glory in flashy comic book heroics like Ponzi dos Andes , 
Spacial, or thrill to the call of battle with the carefree 
excitement of his friend Lino Tavares, or fly to meet 
danger with the nerveless grace of Battle Sergeant Eanes, 
when required he can do what has to be done. He knows 
he has finally been tested and has triumphed over his 
greatest enemy: himself. 

Suddenly, without warning, the Other reaches out and 
seizes Carvalho's right hand in his own. 

And shakes it. 

Which in reaction sets Earthman and Other, still en- 
thusiastically shaking one another’s hand, to turning 
lazy, laughin'g cartwheels among the stars. □ 



EDITOR’S NOTES 



p i 





By Charles C. Ryan 



Back to Baggies 



VA7e appreciate all the letters of 

’ * support elicited by my com- 
ments on our change in format. 

Most of those who took the time t o 
write essentially said that even 
though they might like the older for- 
mat with the slick paper and full- 
color art, it was the stories and 
articles that they bought the 
magazine for. A handful indicated j 
that they only bought the magazine ! 
for its slickness, and if that stopped, j 
so would they. 

We appreciate that honesty. But 
we’re not sure they’d really be will- 
ing to pay what it actually costs to 
produce the magazine in the full- 
slick format we had. I wrote about 
this in some depth in an earlier 
column ( Aboriginal No. 13, Jan. -Fob. 
1989), essentially noting that the 
large circulation magazines such as 
Time, Newsweek, et. al. keep the 
cover price of their magazines artifi- 
cially low, practically giving them 
away, because they make the bulk of 
their income from advertising 
revenue. That puts small circulation 
magazines like us, which have very I 
little advertising revenue, in a dif- 
ficult position. We really should have 
charged $5 per copy and SI 8 for a 1 
6-issue subscription for a slick 
magazine. But most people wouldn’t i 
be willing to pay that, conditioned as i 



they are to the cheaper mass-market 
prices. As attractive as the heatset 
j printing and slick pages helped 
make the magazine look, we’re not 
sure it was worth it. The vast 
majority of the letters we received 
commiserated with the economic 
crunch, and said they wanted 
Aboriginal to continue — even if it 
meant dropping the color art! 

As you have undoubtedly noticed, 
we have again changed the paper 
and method of production for the 
same reason we changed it two is- 
sues ago — to cut costs. 

For the time being, we plan to 
keep the full-color art, though we are 
even more restricted than before as 
to where that art can be placed. (This 
is a matter of press configurations, 
and has nothing to do with what we’d 
choose editorially.) 

At the same time, many have 
written to say the Postal Service has 
severely damaged their magazines 
when we dropped the protective bags 
for the past two issues. (Many of the 
letters, unthinkingly, considered the 
damage done by the Post Awful to be 
ourfault, instead ofblamingthe post 
office which mangled the copy.) As a 
matter of fact, our checking subscrip- 
tion copies were just as mauled, and 
the last one didn’t arrive at all. The 
Postal Service, unlike private busi- 




ness, of course, doesn't recognize 
that when it takes money to perform 
a service and then damages, or loses, 
the product, it has the responsibility 
to replace it. Government-run opera- 
tions are good at holding others to 
standards that they eschew themsel- 
ves, creating some typically bureau- 
cratic Catch-22s. 

The Postal Service employees at 
the local post office are friendly, 
courteous, and helpful as far as what 
they do goes. But once the mail hits 
the high speed machinery, all bets 
are off. The equipment installed na- 
tionally to improve the Postal 
Service’s efficiency (read speed) has 
also increased the rate of damaged 
and destroyed goods. 

Because of that, we decided it was 
more important to see that the 
magazine gets to you, our sub- 
scribers, in one piece than it is to 
keep the slick paper. 

Even so, the protective bags do 
cost more to use, so we ask all those 
who said they’d be happy to pay 
more, and those who appreciate the 
protection, to send in an extra pay- 
ment to cover the bags. 

If you appreciate the extra protec- 
tion, send us a baggie payment to 
help defray the extra cost. Informa- 
tion on the baggie cost is located on 
page 15. Thanks. □ ' 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



Oscar Carvalho, Spacial 



49 





By Mike Resnick 

Art by Lucy Synk 



50 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



How I Birdied 



How I Wrote the New Testament, 
Ushered in the Renaissance, and 
Birdied the 17 th Hole at Pebble Beach 



S o how was I to know that after all the false Messiahs 
the Romans nailed up, he would turn out to be the 
real one? 

I mean, it’s not every day that the Messiah lets himself 
be nailed to a cross, you know? We all thought he was 
supposed to come with the sword and throw the Romans 
out and raze Jerusalem to the ground — and if he couldn’t 
quite pull that off, I figured the least he could do was take 
on a couple of the bigger Romans, mano a mano, and whip 
them in straight falls. 

It's not as if I’m an unbeliever. (How could 1 be, at this 
late date?) But you talk about the Anointed One, you 
figure you're talking about a guy with a little flash, a little 
style, a guy whose muscles have muscles, a Sylvester 
Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger type of guy, you know 
what I mean? 

So sure, when 1 see them walking this skinny little 
wimp up to Golgotha, I join in the fun. So I drink a little 
too much wine, and I tell too many jokes (but all of them 
funny, if I say so myself), and maybe I even hold the 
vinegar for one of the guards (though 1 truly don’t remem- 
ber doing that) — but is that any reason for him to single 
me out? 

Anyway, there we are, the whole crowd from the pub, 
and he looks directly at me from his cross, and he says, 
“One of you shall tarry here until I return.” 

“You can’t be talking to me!” I answer, giving a big wink 
to my friends. "I do all my tarrying at the House of Young 
Maidens over on the next street!” 

Everybody else laughs at this, even the Romans, but 
he just stares reproachfully at me, and a few minutes later 
he’s telling God to forgive us, as if we’re the ones who broke 
the rules of the Temple, and then he dies, and that’s that. 

Except that from that day forth, I don’t age so much as 
a minute, and when Hannah, my wife, sticks a knife 
between my ribs just because I forgot her birthday and 
didn’t come home for a week and then asked for a little 
spending money when I walked in the door, I find to my 
surprise that the second she removes the knife I am 
instantly healed with not even a scar. 

Well, this puts a whole new light on things, because 
suddenly I realize that this little wimp on the cross really 
was the Messiah, and that I have been cursed to wander 
the Earth (though in perfect health) until he returns, 
which does not figure to be any time soon, as the Romans 
are already talking about throwing us out of Jerusalem 
and property values are skyrocketing. 

Well, at first this seems more like a blessing than a 
curse, because at least it means I will outlive the yenta I 
married and maybe get a more understanding wife. But 
then all my friends start growing old and dying, which 
they would do anyway but which always seems to happen 
a little faster in Judea, and Hannah adds a quick eighty 
pounds to a figure that could never be called svelte in the 
first place, and suddenly it looks like she’s going to live as 
long as me, and I decide that maybe this is the very worst 

How I Birdied 



kind of curse after all. 

Now, at about the time that Hannah celebrates her 
90th birthday — thank God we didn’t have cakes and 
candles back in those days or we might have burnt down 
the whole city — I start to hear that Jerusalem is being 
overrun by a veritable plague of Christians. This in itself 
is enough to make my good Jewish blood boil, but when I 
find out exactly what a Christian is, I am fit to be tied. 
Here is this guy who curses me for all eternity or until he 
returns, whichever comes first (and it’s starting to look 
like it’s going to be a very near thing), and suddenly — 
even though nothing he promised has come to pass except 
for cursing a poor itinerant businessman who never did 
anyone any harm — everybody I know is worshipping 
him. 

There is no question in my mind that the time has come 
to leave Judea, and 1 wait just long enough for Hannah to 
choke on an unripe fig which someone has thoughtlessly 
served her while she lay in bed complaining about her 
nerves, and then I catch the next caravan north and book 
passage across the Mediterranean Sea to Athens, but as 
Fate would have it, I arrive about five centuries too late 
for the Golden Age. 

This is naturally an enormous disappointment, but I 
spend a couple of decades soaking up the sun and dallying 
with assorted Greek maidens, and when this begins to 
pall I finally journey to Rome to see what all the excite- 
ment is about. 

And what is going on there is Christianity, which 
makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, since to the best 
of my knowledge no one else he ever cursed or blessed is 
around to give testimony to it, and I have long since 
decided that being known as the guy who taunted him on 
the cross would not be in the best interests of my social 
life and so I have kept my lips sealed on the subject. 

But be that as it may, they are continually having these 
gala festivals — kind of like the Super Bowl, but without 
the two-week press buildup — in which Christians are 
thrown to the lions, and they have become overwhelming- 
ly popular with the masses, though they are really more 
of a pageant than a sporting event, since the Christians 
almost never win and the local bookmakers won’t even list 
a morning line on the various events. 

I stay in Rome for almost two centuries, mostly because 
I have become spoiled by indoor plumbing and paved 
roads, but then I can see the handwriting on the wall and 
I realize that I am going to outlive the Roman Empire, 
and it seems like a good idea to get established elsewhere 
before the Huns overrun the place and I have to learn to 
speak German. 

So I become a wanderer, and 1 find that I really like to 
travel, even though we do not have any amenities such as 
Pullman cars or even Holiday Inns. I see all the various 
wonders of the ancient world — although it was not so 
ancient then as it has become — and I journey to China 

Copyright © 1990 by Mike Resnick 

51 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



(where I help them invent gunpowder, but leave before 
anyone considers inventing the fuse), and I do a little 
tiger-hunting in India, and I even consider climbing 
Mount Everest (but I finally decide against it since it 
didn't have a name back then, and bragging to people that 
I climbed this big nameless mountain in Nepal will some- 
how lack a little something in the retelling). 

After I have completed my tour, and founded and 
outlived a handful of families, and hobnobbed with the 
rich and powerful, I return to Europe, only to find out that 
the whole continent is in the midst of the Dark Ages. Not 
that the daylight isn’t as bright as ever, but when I start 
speaking to people it is like the entire populace has lost 
an aggregate of 40 points off its collective I.Q. 

Talk about dull! Nobody can read except the monks, 
and I find to my dismay that they still haven’t invented 
air conditioning or even frozen food, and once you finish 
talking about the king and the weather and what kind of 
fertilizer you should use on your fields, the conversation 
just kind of lays there like a dead fish, if you know what 
I mean. 

Still, I realize that I now have my chance for revenge, 
so I take the vows and join an order of monks and live a 
totally cloistered life for the next twenty years (except for 
an occasional Saturday night in town, since I am physi- 
cally as vigorous and virile as ever), and finally I get my 
opportunity to translate the Bible, and I start inserting 
little things, little hints that should show the people what 
he was really like, like the bit with the Gadarene swine, 
where he puts devils into the pigs and makes them rush 
down the hill to the sea. So okay, that’s nothing to write 
home about today, but you’ve got to remember that back 
then I was translating this for a bunch of pig farmers, who 
have a totally different view of this kind of behavior. 

Or what about the fig tree? Only a crazy man would 
curse a fig tree for being barren when it’s out of season, 
right? But for some reason, everyone who reads it decides 
it is an example of his power rather than his stupidity, 
and after awhile I just pack it in and leave the holy order 
forever. 

Besides, it is time to move on, and the realization 
finally dawns on me that no matter how long I stay in one 
spot, eventually my feet get itchy and I have to give in to 
my wanderlust. It is the curse, of course, but while 
wandering from Greece to Rome during the heyday of the 
Empire was pleasant enough, I find that wandering from 
one place to another in the Dark Ages is something else 
again, since nobody can understand two-syllable words 
and soap is not exactly a staple commodity. 

So after touring all the capitals of Europe and feeling 
like I am back in ancient Judea, I decide that it is time to 
put an end to the Dark Ages. I reach this decision when I 
am in Italy, and I mention it to Michelangelo and Leonar- 
do while we are sitting around drinking wine and playing 
cards, and they decide that I am right and it is probably 
time for the Renaissance to start. 

Creating the Renaissance is pretty heady stuff, though, 
and they both go a little haywire. Michelangelo spends the 
next few years lying on his back getting paint, in his face, 
and Leonardo starts designing organic airplanes. How- 
ever, once they get their feet wet they do a pretty good job 
of bringing civilization back to Italy, though my dancing 
partner Lucrezia Borgia is busily poisoning it as quick as 
Mike and Leo are enlightening it, and just about the time 

52 



things get really interesting I find my feet getting itchy 
again, and I spend the next century or so wandering 
through Africa, where I discover the Wandering Jew Falls 
and put up a signpost to the effect, but evidently somebody 
uses it for firewood, because the next I hear of the place 
it has been renamed the Victoria Falls. 

Anyway, I keep wandering around the world, which 
becomes an increasingly interesting place to wander 
around once the Industrial Revolution hits, but I can’t 
help feeling guilty, not because of that moment of frivolity 
eons ago, but because except for having Leonardo do a 
portrait of my girlfriend Lisa, I really don’t seem to have 
any great accomplishments, and eighteen centuries of 
aimlessness can begin to pall on you. 

And then I stop by a little place in England called Saint 
Andrews, where they have just invented a new game, and 
I play the very first eighteen holes of golf in the history of 
the world, and suddenly I find that I have a purpose after 
all, and that purpose is to get my handicap down to scratch 
and play every course in the world, which so far comes to 
a grand total of one but soon will run into the thousands. 

So I invest my money, and I buy a summer home in 
California and a winter home in Florida, and while the 
world is waiting for the sport to come to them, I build my 
own putting greens and sand traps, and for those of you 
who are into historical facts, it is me and no one else who 
invents the sand wedge, which I do on April 17, 1893. (1 
invent the slice into the rough three days later, which 
forces me to invent the two-iron. Over the next decade 1 
also invent the three- through nine-irons, and I have plans 
to invent irons all the way up to number twenty-six, but 
I stop at nine until such time as someone invents the golf 
cart, since twenty-six irons are very difficult to carry over 
a five-mile golf course, with or without a complete set of 
woods and a putter.) 

By the 1980s I have played on all six continents, and I 
am currently awaiting the creation of domed links on 
Antarctica. Probably it won’t come to pass for another two 
hundred years, but if there is one thing I’ve got plenty of, 
it’s time. And in the meantime, I’ll just keep adding to my 
list of accomplishments. So far, I’d say my greatest efforts 
have been putting in that bit about the pigs, and maybe 
getting Leonardo to stop daydreaming about flying men 
and get back to work on his easel. And birdying the 17th 
hole at Pebble Beach has got to rank right up there, too; 
I mean, how many people can sink a 45-foot uphill putt in 
a cold drizzle? 

] So all in all, it's been a pretty good life. I’m still doomed 
j to wander for all eternity, but there's nothing in the 
| rulebook that says I can't wander in my personal jet plane, 
| and Fifi and Fatima keep me company when I’m not on 
■ the links, and I’m up for a iifetime membership at Augus- 
j ta, which is a lot more meaningful in my case than in most 
! others. 

In fact, I'm starting to feel that urge again. I’ll probably 
stop off at the new course they’ve built near Lake 
Naivasha in Kenya, and then hit the links at Bombay, and 
then the Jaipur Country Club, and then .... 

I just hope the Second Coming holds off long enough 
for me to play a couple of rounds at the Chou En-lai 
Memorial Course in Beijing. I hear it’s got a water hole 
that you’ve got to see to believe. 

You know, as curses go, this is one of Lhe better ones. 

□ 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



How I Birdied 




A Matter of Taste 

By Esther M. Friesner 

Art by Larry Blamire 



T should do what?” The butler’s eyes goggled worse 
■•■than those of the stuffed carp he had carved only last 
night. 

“You heard me, Rawlins." The housemaid fixed a steely 
gaze upon the priceless antique dinner plate in the 
butler’s hands. He held it tentatively just above the place 
of honor at the elegantly laid table, but not for long, if Mrs. 
Connor had her way. “Break it.” 

The idea set Rawlins’s underlip atremble. “Part of the 
Trafalgar service, Mrs. Connor? On purpose? Me?” 

“Yes, you." Mrs. Connor pursed her lips. “I’d do it quick 
enough myself, if I hadn’t Mother to support. Smash it in 
a minute, sooner than let that one eat from it.” 

She cast a meaningful gaze at the closed living room 
doors, beyond whose mute oaken barrier a select contin- 
gent of the Georgetown haut ton — and one other — were 
presently enjoying Mrs. Ruth Longworthy ’s hospitality. 
"They’ll just be finishing their drinks now — and I shud- 
der to think what that one’s drinking — coming in here 
next, that one a-slithering over the very floors poor Ina 
spent half her life holystoning. Yes, poor Ina, lying on her 
bed this very minute without even the comfort of her faith 
to see her through these awful times!” 

Ina was a low blow — a younger Rawlins once had 
shared a carefully banked passion with said lady — but it 
had a galvanic effect on the butler. Purposefully he strode 
towards the Carrara marble fireplace, the guilty plate 
held high. Mrs. Connor smiled a silent alea jacta est. No 
crockery could survive a tumble to that adamantine 
hearth. 

Rawlins paused. “This will mean my job, you know." 
“A-slithering!” Ruthless, that reiteration. 

And effective. Rawlins let drop the irreplaceable plate 
just as the great doors rolled back on their brass casters 
and the first guests entered the dining room. 

“Ah!” the Ambassador exclaimed, and swiftly flicked 
out his second-lower-left tentacle to snatch the falling 
plate from doom. He caught it a foot above the 
hearthstone. “How lucky for you that I am omnidextrous.” 

He passed it back to the butler with an approximated 
smile. 

Rawlins took the plate, being scrupulous to avoid all 
contact with the Ambassador’s rippling cyan flesh. 
Without a word of acknowledgment or thanks, without 
even the ghost of a bow, he set the platter in its place and I 
retired to his carving station, ignoring Mrs. Longworthy ’s | 
glare and the extended and pointed clearing of her sap- j 
phired throat. / 

"I do apologize for Rawlins,” she said, a bit testily. 

“You cannot blame him, dear lady,” the Ambassador 
replied. “The populace of this city — this country — I will 
go so far as to say this world in its entirety! — has 
hardened its heart against me and mine. Yet the crime 
was so ancient. Had we not had the bad luck to mention 
it ourselves — ” 

54 



“Do have some of the duck, Your Excellency,” Mrs. 
Longworthy exclaimed, a bit too brightly, a tad too sharp- 
ly. At mention of the now-famous abomination, polite 
dinner chat ceased. All eyes turned to the Ambassador; 
unfriendly eyes. 

“No, thank you,” he returned. “We no longer indulge.” 
He gave his full attention to the salad. 

“Why not?" It was the son of the Moravian attache — 
or perhaps the Brazilian sub-charge d'affaires — a most 
disagreeable lad, in any case. “Not as tasty as what you’d 
really like, is it? After all, duck’s only a dumb beast. Why 
not nibble on our hostess's ear, for old times’ sake?” 

“Sebastian!” 

“Oh, come off it, Ruth!” Sebastian retorted. “You only 
invited him for the notoriety of it, and we’re only at the 
same table with this — thing — because we’re all dog-leg 
level on our ministerial totem poles. I’ve put up with this 
charade through cocktails and hors d’oeuvres — and did 
you see the wistful way he stared at those Swedish meat- 
balls? — but nothing says 1 have to swallow dinner at the 
same table with — with — that one!" He indicated the 
Ambassador with the same disgust he reserved for his 
pedigreed but unhousebreakable Afghan hound. The 
Ambassador's nictitating membranes lowered in shame. 
He poked his arugula listlessly. 

“We’re risking our necks being seen with him!” a flighty 
specimen of local journalistic fauna shrilled. 

“I fail to see the risk involved.” Mrs. Longworthy’s 
generous mouth was sullen. This scenario had not oc- 
curred to her while laying out the place-cards. 

“You know what risk,” the columnist cheeped. 
“Revenge, damn it! And not just the nut-groups. Ordinary 
people. Decent people who aren’t about to forgive or forget 
what he and his kind did to us!” 

“Not to you.” The Ambassador’s voice was barely 
audible. “We have already tendered our regrets — ” 

“Don’t you dare tender another thing while you're 
under my roof, Your Excellency!” Mrs. Longworthy was 
not about to let the Lower Orders win without a tussle. 
“You aren’t responsible for the actions of your ancestors.” 

“But if further apology is called for — " 

“I forbid it. Have you no pride?” 

The Ambassador pondered this. “No,” he said at last. 
“That is, I don’t think I have. A strange concept ....” 

“Not so strange as your concept of a family barbecue!” 
Sebastian sniped. 

The alien sagged further in his chair. “How could we 
suspect? Had we but known what you would become — 
the evolutionary potential — !“ He waved his tentacles 
vaguely, helpless to recapture the past. “We were not so 
wise, then." 

“ That was then, this is now’?” The British Third As- 



Copyright © 1990 by Esther M. Friesner 

Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



A Matter of Taste 















■ ■ ■■ : ■■ ' 



sistant Under-Minister for Culture curled his lip. “God, I 
hate a sanctimonious vegetarian!" A proud member of the 
C. of E., he still smarted under the horrendous changes it 
had undergone in the wake of the revenants’ shocking 
confession. When he thought of the new Primate of ; 
England, he shuddered. j 

The closed dining-room doors flew back into their wall- ! 
sleeves with a resounding crash. The dinner guests 
dropped their hostilities to stare. A small, elderly woman 
tottered in, clad only in a white flannel nightgown. Gray 
hair streamed down her back in a tousled mane and 

A Matter of Taste 



framed her wrinkled face in a wispy halo. 

“Gubba!" she shrieked. 

“Ina ... " The pain in Rawlins's face was immeasurable. 

“Ina Harvey," Mrs. Longworthy whispered to the Am- 
bassador. “My housekeeper. She's — not well." 

As if to confirm Mrs. Longworthy 's understated diag- 
nosis, Ina Harvey lurched forward still gibbering, “Gubba! 
Gubba!" Rawlins attempted to intervene, leaving the half- 
carved duck abandoned on the sideboard. His former 
inamorata staggered towards him. She seemed about to 
tumble into his arms, but at the last moment she nimbly ' 

55 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



sidestepped, lunged for the duck, seized the unattended 
carving knife, and with a cry of, “Sweet Saint Gubba, 
guide my hand!” plunged the knife blade into the 
Ambassador’s back. 

The wound would not have killed an Earther, but alien 
physiology being the random thing it is, she connected 
with the main heart, three of the kidneys, and the durb. 

r | ihe outcry in diplomatic circles was loud, though not 
all of it was outraged. The Ambassador was dead, 
and public opinion was evenly split between Serves them 
right and What will they do to us now? 

Terror seized the planet. Survivalists took to the woods 
in hordes, sure of civilization-levelling retaliation on the 
part of the extraterrestrial nostalgiaphiles. The faithful 
jammed the newly founded First Church of Darwin, 
laying their petitions for salvation before Saint Simian 
and Saint Scopes. Saint Gubba the Australopithecine had 
her adherents, too, for the Right Reverend Doctor Billie- 
Joe Chase had been vouchsafed a divine revelation on 
prime-time TV proving that the families of both Saint 
Elizabeth and Saint Anne had descended in direct genetic 
line from this sole protohominid ancestress. Followers of 
Saint Lucy of Olduvai begged to differ. 

“Suddenly it’s illegal not to teach evolution in Ten- 
nessee." Brian Greeley of the recently formed Exogaian 
Liaison Authority folded his newspaper and passed it on 
to his subordinate, a skittish young thing with a B.A. in 
English from Harvard and a government job as a last 
resort. 

“How can you read the paper so calmly?" the underling 
squealed, letting the daily flutter to the floor unread. 
“They’re going to blast us off the face of the earth!” 

“Oh, I don’t think so.” 

“Why shouldn’t they? They’ve got the technology, and 
we’ve given them the motive. They came in peace, and 
what did we do? We killed their Ambassador! We treated 
them like lepers! We — ” 

“My dear Hollis, they are reasonable beings. The very 
fact of their peaceable return proves it. What could they 
have expected from us, once the secret was out? What sort 
of reception would Colonel Sanders get if he walked into 
a coop full of suddenly sentient chickens?” 

Hollis moaned. “I’ll never see another Yale game!” 

The interoffice line beeped once, discreetly. Greeley 
picked up the receiver, listened, then said, “Show him in.” 

The Ambassador was dead, but his successor had not 
been dilatory in assuming diplomatic duties. Greeley's 
secretary stood well away as she held the door open to 
admit him. She made no attempt to hide her distaste. 

Hollis took one look at their caller and wove his fingers 
into a Turk’s-head knot. “Don’t eat me!” he cried. 

The new Ambassador furrowed his brow and several 
other areas of exposed skin in perplexity. 

“Ignore Hollis,” Greeley said, providing a chair wide 
enough to accommodate the Ambassador's hummocky 
body. “He’s a twit. Aren’t you, Hollis? Now, if you’ve come 
to discuss reparations for the death of your colleague — ” 

Fully three tentacles were raised in a staying motion. 
“By no means. That sad incident has but emphasized our 
urgent need to learn what really underlies your 
animosity.” 

“Well, there is the semantic difference we have when 
it comes to the phrase, ‘have lunch together’ ....’’ 

56 



“No, no, it is more; it must be. We continue to assure 
you by our most holy vows that we no longer eat meat — 
not merely yours, but that of more succulent species. 
Surely there is some other reason — ?’’ 

Greeley scratched his head. “Oh, hell, you’ve been 
honest with us. Why not tell you the truth? It’s pride.” 

“Pardon, that concept has no equivalent in our lexicon." 

“Lucky you. I’ll say this for our species, sir: We can take 
being eaten a lot easier than we can take being force-fed 
humble pie. Creationists said humanity was put on this 
earth. Evolutionists said it developed here. Suddenly out 
of the clear blue sky — literally — you folks come to say, 
yes, humanity was put here: put here by your colonists as 
beef cattle! Whole herds of hominids, with no greater role 
in the Universal Scheme than to serve as the Sunday 
roast.” 

The Ambassador’s membranes lowered halfway. 
“Stew,” he murmured. “Too tough for a roast; though you 
do — did — travel well.” 

“ — and when th6 colony failed, many of the herds 
escaped. Evolution took it from there. Like our wild mus- 
tangs descending from domesticated horses the 
Spaniards brought to the New World. Now back you come 
— our former masters and consumers — to establish 
friendly relations. How friendly did you think we’d be, 
once we learned the truth? We’re no longer a little below 
the angels, we’re one step from the Quarter Pounder! 
You’ve knocked every earthly religion on its sainted ear, 
you’ve gutted our language of every food-based idiom, and 
it’s become high treason for someone to tell the old ’1 met 
a bum who hadn’t had a bite in days so I bit him' joke.” 

The Ambassador's frown-lines were trenches now. ”1 
don’t understand. Pride 

“Self-love, if you will,” Greeley suggested. “Esteem, 
self-image. The value we set on ourselves, the worth — ” 

“Is that it, then?” The alien’s skin smoothed somewhat. 
“Because our ancestors ate yours, you believe we do not 
value you highly? Love you with sufficient sincerity?” 

“Something like that.” 

The Ambassador brightened. “But that is most easily 
rectified!" He rose slowly from his seat. “Tell me, will your 
television crews be present at our comrade’s funeral?" 

“We’d need the Marines to keep them away." 

“Excellent. Then directly after the rites, 1 can promise 
to show your people proof of the high regard, the esteem, 
the abiding love we cherish for your breed." 

“Uhhh, this proof ... Could you specify — ?" 

“Permit me the indulgence of surprise." The alien ig- 
nored the look of misgiving on Greeley’s face as he started 
for the door. “Gentlemen?” 

' I ’he funeral was held at the Washington Monument 
reflecting pool. The alien delegation performed the 
simple yet elegant rites as the late Ambassador’s body 
was reduced to its component elements and dispersed in 
the atmosphere. The new Ambassador took it upon him- 
self to explain the whole procedure for the cameras, and 
for the benefit of the few jittery Terrans present in person 
at the obsequies. 

“Such complete disposal of the corporeal form is an old, 
old way of ours. This is why you never suspected our 
previous presence on your world. We did not leave behind 
even our bones.” 

“And artifacts?" Greeley asked. 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



A Matter of Taste 




"We were — how would you say it? — minimalists. Also 
tidy." He shrugged off his ceremonial robes and faced the 
cameras. "Cherished watchers, now attend and witness. 

In the interests of the harmony between our peoples, let 
the sending that here follows end all your doubts: to love 
and value you is truly our second nature; to consume, 
ingest, or even think of nutritionally assimilating you, 
anathema.” 

An oblong section of air behind the Ambassador turned 
hazy and resolved itself into a holographic projection that 
was eagerly picked up by the cameras. It was, the alien 
explained, a transmission directly from the homeworld — 
only the first of many, if their Terran friends would 
forgive, forget, and allow. He had arranged it as easily as 
a college student might phone in a pizza order, no 
anchovies. The eyes of every Earther with access to a 
boob-tube were transfixed by the panorama of a civiliza- 
tion from beyond the stars. 

The initial epic sweep of that miraculous transmission 
narrowed to a single-family dwelling. A small alien bob- 
bled across the equivalent of a front lawn, pursuing a 
multicolored floating star. While earthbound toy tsars 
barked orders at their R&D departments to develop a 
knockoff in time for Christmas, the youngling lost its 
plaything in a tangle of nasty-looking scrub. Tentative 
probings with its tentacles yielded painful results. The 
youngster put the wounded extremities to its mouth like 
any thom-stung Terran child. For a moment, that one 
gesture evoked a twinge of sympathy from the human 
audience. 

But only for a moment. The child turned back toward 
the dwelling, raised two opposing pairs of tentacles over- 
head, and snapped them like whips. The transmission of 
sound was as sharp as the picture. No one on Earth could 
fault it, or later deny what they saw. 

The dwelling irised open and a man emerged. He was 
somewhat hairier and smaller than the norm, with slack 
posture and no hope of making the Best Dressed list — 
unless one counted the shiny bangles on his wrists and 
ankles. But for all his sartorial primitivism, he was 
bright-eyed, healthy, and eager to please. He fairly 
scampered across the lawn, listened attentively to the 
little alien’s bubbly syllables, then bounded into the scrub 
with a happy cry. 

When he fetched out the wayward toy, his owner gave 
him a lump of something green and scratched his back in 
the one spot no human can reach on his own. It was 
evident that Mrs. Ruth Longworthy would serve chat au 
vin at her table sooner than that small alien would con- 
sent to eat its adored pet. 

Hollis needed a winch to get his jaw off the ground. 

“Well, hel-lo, Grampa,” Greeley said sotto voce. “What 
big brow-ridges you have." 

A fter a lengthy conference in the office of Exogaian 
■^*-Liaison, the new Ambassador was brought to see 
the error he had made, albeit with the best of intentions. 

"Yet if we make amends, why can you not forgive?” he 
asked plaintively. “Have I not sent instructions to the 
homeworld, directing the immediate institution of 
programs to speed the evolution of your ancestral beings? 

We have the bioforming technology to do this — a simple 
affair, the stimulation of certain nexi of the brain. No j 

longer shall they be pets to us, though I weep for my t 

i 



daughter’s sake; she was very attached to hers.” 

“I’m sorry, Your Excellency,” Greeley replied, “but that 
changes nothing. Your broadcast riled folks up worse than 
before. Now we need time to decide which hurts worse: 
being your lunches or your Lassies.” 

“Lassies?” 

“You wouldn’t understand.” 

“That appears to be the durb of the problem.” The 
alien’s whole massive body seemed to droop. “I agree, Mr. 
Greeley. It is hopeless to strive for diplomatic relations so 
long as your people will not understand our position. We 
shall leave you for a time. Only the mutually guilty can 
share the pain of inadvertent crime. But you will learn.” 
“Of course.” Greeley really didn’t follow the alien, but 
as a career diplomat he was paid to be agreeable. 

T he aliens’ departure was received with sorrow only 
within the scientific community. “Did you see what 
they did with their ship’s mascot in just the short time 
they were here?" one lab tech groaned to another. 

“Well, I don’t usually stay up for the Tonight show, but 
I made an exception,” his partner replied. “A thousand 
years of evolution leaped in one week. I hear that Johnny’s 
going to let Rover be guest-host for April. What we might 
have learned!” 

On the other hand, the majority of Just Plain Folks said 
much the same as Mr. Fred Nicely, family man, solid U.S. 
citizen, Iowan, and pig-farmer, viz.: “Good riddance!” He 
rattled the newspaper for emphasis. 

His hired man, Randy Morse, tried to read the article 
about the alien exodus over his boss’s shoulder. It shared 
front-page space with the new Supreme Court judgment 
making it a felony to sing “Love Me Tender" in a public 
eatery. The two men leaned their elbows on the top bar of 
the breeding sty as they shared the news of the day. “Says 
here they’ll come back when we call ’em," Randy pointed 
out. 

“Ha!” Mr. Nicely ’s short, harsh laugh was rank with 
the aftertraces of a hearty bacon-and-eggs breakfast. 
“They think we'd ever tell ’em to come back? I n a pig’s eye! ” 
“Watch your language, Nicely!” 

The paper was snatched from the good farmer’s hands. 
Automatically he cursed Randy’s rudeness; unjustly, for 
Randy was incapable of such discourtesy to his employer. 
At the moment, Randy was incapable of anything. 
Petrified, paralyzed, only his lips flapping like longjohns 
on the line, Randy gawked at the real culprit, a prize 
Spotted Poland China boar who was exercising his newly 
acquired opposable trotters to turn the newsprint pages. 

The boar ignored the hired man's frozen stare and the 
farmer’s guttural scream. He only had eyes for the page- 
one story on the aliens. He sighed deeply over the photos 
of his benefactors’ leavetaking. He’d miss them, though 
their mutual acquaintance had been brief and confined to 
the cover of darkness. Their initial encounter was 
shrouded in the mists of pre-sentience, but what came 
after was crystal clear in newfound porcine memory. 
What they’d done to him and the others hadn't hurt a bit 
that he could recall. Even if it had, it was a trifling price 
to pay for facing a tomorrow that now held more than 
scrapple. 

He thumbed to the farm news and remarked, “Says 
here that pork futures are up.” 

So they w ere. 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-A:. .>•<.*& &90 



A Matter of Taste 



tl 

57 






Three Boston Artists 

(Continued from page 2) 

She wriggled out of his hands. 

“When one of my Phneri eats a fish, he understands the 
structure of the fish. He worships the fish while he eats. 
He esfns the fish. They have art too. They have poetry.” 
The old woman looked at him. “Your Juno's a good paint- 
ing. But Rembrandt's dead; he doesn't eat. My artists eat.” 

“What do you want?" Ernest asked. 

“Enough fish, Mr. Pole. I want the R’rched Court to 
reclassify the Phneri. I want teachers for the Phneri, I 
want them to learn English, they can do it, I’ve taught him 
some. I want money for teachers. I want to get the Phneri 
out of those raft slums on the South Boston Shoals. I want 
them to be out of my custody, I want them to be able to 
apply for work permits on their own, to get into the Cube 
on their own, because that’s where the money is, Mr. Pole, 
I want them to be able to live in the Cube if they want.” 

“You want them to be citizens.” 

“Why not? I want humans to look at them the way you 
look at Juno." She smiled crookedly. “Not a lot to want, is 
it?" 

She picked up her translator box to leave. 

He held her arm. “I’ll look at their amt,” he offered. 

“What?” 

“I mean — if they make art, if they don’t just — eat 
things’’ — destroy things — “I’ll look at their art.” His 
hand dropped. “I mean — it isn’t much — it’s what I do.” 

The woman stared at him. After a moment she smiled, 
recovering herself again, she crossed her arms: jeering 
smile, arms akimbo. 

“Art critic for animals? All right. If you can criticize art 
for dangerous animals, I can work for Museum wages.” 

“You’ll do it,” he breathed. 

The alien was sitting up, trilling at the old woman. She 
shot one sharp whistle at him. “I shouldn’t bring him 
when I'm bargaining,” she said dryly. “Yes, we’ll do it. If 
you come and use your precious human eyes on his kind 
of art.” 

The old woman took his elbow and steered him out of 
the marble room. Outside the doorway, French windows 
threw on the parquet a square of wavery sun. “Look out 
there.” They stepped out the windows onto an enclosed 
balcony, glasteel vibrating with the wind. She pointed 
toward the South Boston Shoals. A guard looked up at 
them from the terrace below, another one materialized 
efficiently inside the doorway. The Museum took its 
treasures seriously. 

From this distance the domed raft-slums looked like 
fantasies from a Buckminster Fuller drawing. 

"That’s where the real Boston artists live.” 

nj^he hand was dead black, workmanlike, stubby, a big 
palm spanning short wide fingers. An old man’s 
hand. It hung attentively at the end of a glittering tech- 
nology of glass and glasteel in the restoration room, facing 
Juno. The north light shone over her. Dr. Torch explained 
that esfn didn’t need light. “It’s closer to sonar. He 
generates waves.” The alien, who had eaten his fish in the 
basement, clicked around the oak floor, whistling softly. 
“He likes your floor’s history,” Dr. Torch explained. “The 
trees it was made of ... He sees the seasons.” 

The small alien sat up and looked over its shoulder 

Three Boston Artists 



toward Ernest, an unreadable beaver-. 

For the esfnai they had taken the protective glass off 
Juno. Ernest looked at the helpless paint, thinking of 
pollution, flaking. “He esfns the structure. He records his 
esfnai on this computer." Dr. Torch patted a small green 
box. “He checks the esfnai as he works by using the 
waldo-hand to copy the painting. You get a runtime 
license for the translation software we use," she said, “and 
the copy of the painting. You can make more copies.” she 
grinned. “Sell them in the museum shop. We get a two 
percent royalty.” 

“We only want to restore her.” 

Esfn. The Phner ability to see structure, see it gesture 
by gesture as it had been built. Ernest looked across at 
Juno's young, serene face, the steady eyes under their 
grime and smoke. Immortal beauty made of white lead 
paint, old canvas, burnt and stained and cracked. The 
white lead was oxidizing; the canvas would never hold 
paint well again. Ernest had spent five years convincing 
himself Juno was not too hopeless to restore. 

What would she look like new? 

“You’ll end up hanging the copy,” Dr. Torch predicted. 

“No.” 

“Why not? If you think like a Phner, the artistic process 
is what’s important. Not what it produces. The Phneri 
would let her rot. If you want a record of what she looked 
like during part of her lifetime,” the old woman shrugged, 
"well, that’s only process, isn’t it?" 

“We think like humans here, " Ernest said a little 
stiffly. 

“What’s wrong with thinking like a Phner?” 

Ernest moved over to the window. Outside, the terrace 
overlooked the Wall. The ragged rafts bumped each other 
down at the Shoals slums where the Phneri lived, in the 
little bustling tides. 

“I don’t want an Institute answer," Dr. Torch said. “I 
don’t want to hear ‘because it’s not human.’’’ 

The old woman took a bite out of her lunchroll . Jennifer 
Torch had bought lunch at the Raanda kiosk just outside 
the Institute. Her roll was bright yellow and smelled of 
fish and hot linen. Ernest had brought human food in a 
brown bag from home. The alien clicked over and sat up, 
begging bites. 

“Dr. Torch,” he said, “do you remember back before 
there were aliens?" 

“There were always aliens. They just weren’t here,” she 
said sharply, then laughed. "Ernest, I’m old enough to 
remember Fenway Park being dry.” 

“Before they came — ” Ernest put his sandwich down 
and tried to figure out what he was saying. "All the food 
was human food. Everything that everybody ever ate was 
human. It had been grown, or invented, or something, 
right here on Earth. Everything that people said was 
human. People used Boston whalers instead of water- 
walkers. They didn't have to worry about what human 
was, because that’s all there was. But when I was born, 
the aliens were already here." 

“Are you that young?” She shook her head. 

She fed the last of the sandwich to the alien. “Human 
or not, my food has more vitamins. Come on, guy, time to 
work." The waldo cap, a gold net, was already fitted over 
his head. She plugged the leads in, patted the alien, and 
set him down in front of the painting. 

“There’s a thing about isolated cultures — ” he began. 

59 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 




i “Do you know anything about cultural anthropology?" 

“No,” she said dryly. “I have a degree in it.” 

“Oh. Well." He still needed to say what he meant. He 
found what would help in the cabinets at the back of the 
restoration room. He slid it carefully into a small holding 
box and carried the box back to her, one hand cupped over 
it. “Look at this." The fragment was so small, light enough J 
so that, when she leaned over to look at it, it stirred with > 
her breath. ■ 

“This came out of a Polynesian culture. A very isolated I 
culture, on one or two islands. It’s a miniature grass- i 
weaving. The Polynesians made beautiful things, grass 
mats and pots." A perfect thing. For years, guiltily, he had 
wanted to steal it and center a collage around it. 

She stirred the inch-square mesh with her finger. "It 
has esfn.” 

“We were isolated and we didn’t know it. We made 
Boston, whalers and ate baked beans. Or we painted 
Rembrandts,” he said, looking up at Juno’s serene face. I 
“Rembrandt .was a human, and Shakespeare, and | 
Beethoven. Matisse and Henry Moore. And we thought 
we were all alone.” 

“And then the ships come,” she prompted. “And they 
introduce the Polynesians to top hats and brass buttons. 
And they all go off to New Bedford and the Polynesians 
learn to kill whales.” 

“Do you know what happened to the grass mats and 
pots, Dr. Torch? They're in museums because they are 
beautiful. But the Polynesians today can’t tell you what 
those pots and mats are for. And they can’t make them.” 

“But there are still Polynesians,” she said. 

“Are there?” 

He put the box and the weaving down carefully on a j 
table. He moved over to the window, by her, and looked 
out through the wavery glass. The mylar-covered rafts j 
bobbed in the winter sunlight. Down by half-drowned J 
Back Bay, waldoes moved over old brown houses, shoring j 
up and tearing down. A dot of bright red walked slowly I 




what human culture was like when it was all human. This 
is an alien city. There are twenty-four intelligent species 
in Boston. We’re getting to be like all of them. We’re 
changing. Someday we’re all going to be eating krill crack- | 

ers and operating fish-divers for the Hnarfil; we’ll be I 
imitation Manam or Raanda, or Bishop-worshipers. ; 
Maybe then we’ll know what we’re doing. But we won’t 
know what we were." Ernest grinned uneasily. “I think I 
need to know Juno, to know as much as I can, to love her. j 
I need to be a restorer.” ! 

In the comer of Ernest’s eye, movement caught. The j 
alien was whistling softly at the painting. The waldo was 
holding a brush and had begun to pick at the canvas, j 
delicately as a dragonfly. I 

*TPhe painting blossomed on the canvas like a dream, j 
Ernest spent every hour that he could spare watch- | 
ing the intoxicating calligraphy of the brush: creams and j 
ivories of skin, translucent shadows, sculptural gold. i 

The art trip was put off until the day the painting 
would be finished. The whole Phner community was ex- i 
cited, Dr. Torch told him. They would make a piece of art ' 
just for him. ! 

“Something like kites, they said.” She smiled. “I met 1 



my first Phner because of a kite. I’ll tell you someday.” 

On the day the picture would be finished, they went 
down to the rafts in the South Boston Shoals. They would 
come back in the evening and see Juno done. 

“You won’t like where they live,” Dr. Torch had warned. 
Ernest picked his way across the bobbing floats, following 
her through the crowd of humans and aliens. He had not 
expected to see so many humans in t.he slums. They stood 
huddled around the fires built in the center of the rafts, 
scarecrows in layers of dirty clothes, gaping at the Phneri 
as they would have at a street light or a hopter show. 

The float lurched under a heavy wave. Water slopped 
over Ernest’s shoes, fish-smelling and brown. 

The waves here rolled unremittingly, every few 
seconds, not regular. Ernest felt it as a gravity tug in his 
stomach, then a sudden lightheadedness. Across the 
water, through the late afternoon sea mist, the City Wall 
rose up as solid as a planet, the Boston Cube behind it. 
The sun came through the clouds and turned everything 
to vapor. Turner, he thought. The sunlight strengthened 
until their shadow across the waves was a choppy nettle- 
green. 

A small tawny-gold paw pressed something into 
Ernest’s hand. He looked at it, not. recognizing it. “A 
flaregun,” Dr. Torch said. “That’s for later. You don’t have 
to use it.” He turned it around in his hand, puzzled, then 
put it in his pocket. 

He saw the artists’ float tethered at the end of the long 
strip of slum. Small tawny creatures crowded around the 
constructions on the raft. 

The constructions themselves — Ernest caught his 
breath and held it, held it till it hurt. 

Kites, Dr. Torch had said. They soared. In the whipping 
wind, banners and windsails raced skyward, whirling. 
Grey-green with honey-orange, gold skirled with a no- 
color that tugged at the eyes: fragile towers, bumping, 
colliding. One shot up into the sky, propelled by some 
air-engine, and tumbled upward like a vast acrobat. The 
sky bobbed with rippling shapes. Sails flew glorious and 
urgent; dragons breathed fire into the clouds. Ernest’s 
soul shot upward on that rippling as if it had been on a 
string. 

“Oh,” Ernest said. The longing in his voice startled him. 
He noticed that Dr. Torch’s face was wet with tears. 

“Animals?” she said triumphantly. 

Ernest watched, rapt out of himself. 

Some of the constructions stood on the raft, not meant 
to be borne on air. They were towers, so gossamer that the 
walls themselves caught the light and passed it through 
in dazzle. They ignored gravity, careening castles in a 
fantastic landscape, balanced on their own secret center. 

He watched, lifted out of time. 

The light changed. He looked away for a moment, 
seeing shadows long across water. The sun was sinking 
red. Ernest was startled. Surely he had been looking only 
a few seconds. 

“I don’t want the sun to go down,” he said like a child. 
“This — this is magnificent. 1 want it to go on ...” 

Dr. Torch laughed. “You’ll remember." 

It was only dusk. He could clearly see what happened 
next. 

On the raft, the tawny bodies began to tug at a tower. 
The arms of a windmill flailed, fell. A silken wall tore 
across and jerked like an animal with a broken back. 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



60 



Three Boston Artists 




“What are they doing? They can’t — ” One of the largest 
sails was buckling now. But you can’t, I haven’t seen it all, 
Ernest said silently like a man just killed, watching the 
towers fall like blood out of his heart. The sail swayed back 
and forth in front of the setting sun and the sun flashed 
red, shadow, red. 

In the sky the great dragons floated, untouched as yet. 

The sun touched the ocean and died. From the raft 
slums, someone, human or Phneri, began setting off 
flareguns. A vicious light stabbed through one sail. 
Sparks from the flareguns jabbed at cloth. Sparks cut 
through lines, crawled purposefully up. A burning kite 
blundered into another and light exploded across the sky 
so that Ernest could see the crooked Hancock Tower with 
light blossoming in its glass. What the kites had been 
made of, gauze or silk, hung painted in flame, then fell 
charring. Smudges stung Ernest’s face and hissed into the 
harbor. 

And the Phneri sang. 

It was a trilling vibration in the rafts, so huge a chorus 
that the humans’ bones shook and their teeth chattered. 
The dark water pulsed with it in little waves. And in the 
sky the kites caught and blazed and died until the last of 
them was only a flaming in the sky. 

In the dark the raft closed its shield over them and 
turned up its heat. “Lights,” Dr. Torch said. “No,” Ernest 
said, and he sat bent over in the dark, aching all over. 

“Was it beautiful?” Dr. Torch said. 

" Beautiful ?" he said. 

Below them, in the dirty water, the last of the 
destroyers’ songs faded away in groans. 



S he lived in one of the cheap hives above Kendall 
Square. Her room was cold, smelling of the river, of 
Phneri fur. She ordered coffee from the hive kitchen; it 
arrived in a heat-retaining cup; technology of the Abelnel- 
na, which had replaced Japanese covered cups, plastic 
heat-baffling cups, everything that had been part of 
human culture before the aliens came. 

“I’m sorry you felt hurt,” she said. 

He saw the memory of kites floating in the afternoon 
sky. Somebody had spooned out his soul, bit by bit. 

“Beautiful,” he said dully. “I thought of Los Angeles. 
All those paintings in the earthquake, burning.” 

She raised her eyebrows. “It must be nice to be cul- 
tured. All right, I guess I was hurt too, the first time I saw 
an esfnai. I didn't think of Los Angeles. It was before Los 
Angeles. I was eleven.” 

She put her elbows on the table. “I had just moved up 
from Houston and my family was breaking up. They left 
me pretty much alone. So one afternoon I went out and 
got lost and I saw a Phner. My first alien. He was little, 
like a dog. Malnourished, I know now. Phneri were still 
being killed on sight then. Nobody else saw him. I didn’t 
know what he was. We watched Cody kites together. 
Those big boxy kites. I took him home. He made me the 
most wonderful thing I had ever seen, a very little Cody 
kite out of silver foil. I knew he loved me and I loved him." 
She held her two hands apart. “Then he destroyed it, just 
before the police came. I saw him smash it. It was years 
before I found out why that was love.” 

“Love?” he said. 



A Long Time Ago 



Before taking charge at Aboriginal Science Fiction, our 
editor, Charles C. Ryan, was the editor of Galileo, a science fiction 
magazine published in the mid-1970s. During his tenure there, he 
helped discover a number of new writers who have since gone on to 
win Nebula and/or Hugo awards, such as Connie Willis, John 
Kessei, Lewis Shiner, and more. 

We think he did a fine job at Galileo, and, in fact, it was on 
the strength of that performance that we picked him to help turn 
Aboriginal Science Fiction into the first successful SF magazine in 
a decade. 

Now, on his behalf, we’d like to give you an opportunity to 
see some of the best stories he collected a decade ago. 

For a limited time, while copies last, you can purchase a 
first-edition hardcover copy of Starry Messenger: The Best of Galileo 
for $10, plus $1 postage and handling. If you would like your copy 
autographed by the editor, please indicate how you would like the 
note to read. 

Starry Messenger: The Best of Galileo (St. Martin’s Press, 
1979) features 12 stories by the following authors: 







J II MKI 


KT 


IfSSfU 


GS 







M. Lucie Chin 
Joe L. Hensley 
and Gene DeWeese 
John A. Taylor 
Gregor Hartmann 
and Eugene Potter 

D.C. Poyer 



To order, send $11 for each copy to: 
Aboriginal Science Fiction 
Book Dept. 

P.O. Box 2449 
Woburn, MA 10888-0849 



Harlan Ellison 
Brian Aldiss 
Alan Dean Foster 
Connie Willis 
John Kessei 
Kevin O’Donnell Jr. 



Three Boston Artists 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



61 







1 “And culture. And art. They destroyed the kites for you. 
So you could see every moment of those objects.” 

He stared at her, trying to reconcile anything rational 
with what he felt. He swirled the coffee again. The dark 
liquid swirled in front of his eyes. Gold-orange and grey- 
green and the lifting sails. 

“Structure's beautiful when it changes,” she said. 

She whispered commands to the computer. The printer 
hissed out a page, still warm. The words meant nothing. 

to finish/begin 
all-structures 

(unit=not-here-previous-duration)(unit=not- 

here-duration-to-come) 

esfn to contemplate (all-structures) /is=existence 

“It’s some of their poetry. It means something like: 

Finish and begin. Everything is 

and there is not-presence; in contemplation it is. 

Volcanoes exploding in air 

volcanoes in water 

Finish and begin — 

“They don’t have a word for individual existence, or for 
not existing. Only for duration.” She tried again. 

Visible, not visible, 
here, not here, 
fires in air 
in water 

All seen is seen forever. 

“They must remember for a very long time,” Ernest 
said dully. He could never forget. 

“They don’t think about time." 

“But humans — ” Ernest started. He couldn’t say any 
more. 

“The Institute is wrong,” Jennifer Torch said. “The 
Institute has a lot of influence in this town, but it all goes 
to preserving human culture ‘uncorrupted.’ No such 
thing. Ernest, the aliens are here. This isn’t a world of 
humans any more, not humans alone. We pretend it is. 
We classify intelligent beings like my Phneri as animals. 
We stagnate, like your Institute, that can’t even bear a 
new taste in its mouth. And all the time, there's so much 
we could know.” 

“Like the Polynesians?" Ernest said bitterly. 

“Phneri aren’t destroyers. They could make those kites 
again; there were three hundred Phneri at that esfnai and 
they all esfn'e d the kites before they burned them. But 
they’d only do that for humans; those kites were made for 
this day, that mist and wind and blowing sunlight. And 
to remember.” 

It was ignoble of him, clearly, to be happy that he could 
see those kites again. He looked up at her. She was 
smiling at him mockingly. “And will they ever be again 
the way they were today, Ernest? And will you ever forget 
them?” 

He threw down the cup; it closed before it hit the 
ground. “Humans keep art! That’s how we remember!” 

She shook her head. “Finish and begin.” 

“Not Juno!” 



He had meant it as bluster. 

Later it would seem he should have known what the 
Phner meant. For all the time of the esfnai of Juno, he had 
watched, as happy with the process as the Phner must 
have been. He had gone off today to the art show as if he 
knew what it meant. “Structure changes.” The art show 
and Juno were one work. But he had been blind, been 
human. 

“I told him not to finish her,” Jennifer Torch said. “1 
told him it was important.” 

Ernest understood the Phner as well as he ever would. 
“That doesn't matter!" he shouted. “He’s an artist." 

From the Kendall Square hives to the Institute, late at 
night with only the robocabs running, it was so long, so 
long. The robo jounced them over the night-sleeping river. 
Jennifer passed him her translator box so he could call 
ahead to the Museum. But the comm-address of the res- 
toration rooms didn’t answer, which should have told 
them something. In front of the Museum, swarming police 
lights flashed red and blue and the policemen tried to stop 
them at the doors. 

In the brightly lit restoration room, blood spattered 
across the floor. For such a little animal, the Phner had 
made a lot of blood in dying. The policeman who had shot 
the alien was being interviewed by three reporters. “That 
animal just started to tear the painting apart!” the 
policeman was saying. "Tear it right up!” Blood was splat- 
tered across Juno too. The Phner had ripped the center of 
the canvas away. Juno had lost most of her hair, her neck, 
and both her magnificent eyes. Jennifer Torch knelt down 
and cradled the Phner’s body in her arms. The Phner ’s 
head lolled down over the crook of her elbow. Ernest 
touched its fur for the first time; oily and smooth, with a 
soft undercoat, and still warm. 

The waldo-hand was still painting. It was almost done. 
On the canvas Juno bloomed, young, bright, perfect. It 
was the most beautiful thing Ernest had ever seen. Un- 
touched by time. Untouchable. 

And not painted by a human any more. 

Quite suddenly Ernest sat down on the floor and began 
to cry. 

T he City Wall is a place where young lovers meet, 
friends stroll on the seawall top, gawkers look out 
over the Shoals. Ernest and D: . Jennifer Torch met there 
one day much later, in spring. The winter winds were over 
and the first sailboats were cutting their white notches in 
the river. The granite bulk of the Institute was at their 
backs. 

“They fired me, you know,” Ernest said. “From the 
Institute.” 

“Well,” Jennifer said. “I’ve been ’retired.’” 

Neither said anything for awhile. He looked up at the 
Institute. He thought he could pick out the glass balcony 
where he and she had stood, the day they had first met. 
There were no mylar rafts to look at now; the Phneri and 
the humans who had shared their slum had been moved 
away. 

“I wonder who has custody of the Phneri now,” she said. 
"They aren’t yours," he said bitterly. 

“They never were,” she said. 

Someone had got a copy of the Juno data the Phner had 
produced, and the waldo street artists had passed copies 
from hand to hand. So now, on one of the windbreaks at 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1990 



62 



Three Boston Artists 



wm 



the top of the wall, on a faded poster, a waldo artist had 
used up a few idle minutes and copied Juno. Her mag- 
nificent eyes smiled over drowned Boston. Her pigments 
were already fading. 

“I wasn't even important. The Phner was making a 
collage and I was a piece of paper he needed.” He put out 
his hand and touched the fading face on the paper. “Juno 
was the big piece in the middle. But she wasn’t important 
either.” 

He looked out over the river. When he had come to 
Boston, he had thought he could go away from it and begin 
understanding things again. “I’ll never leave here,” he 
said. 

“Ernest,” she said. “I’m sorry. I mean — I didn’t mean 
to hurt you.” 

He picked up a piece of paper that had got stuck in a 
crevice of the Wall, looked at it without quite seeing it, 
and stuck it in his pocket. It had the look of something 
human. 

“You still make collages?" She dug in her pocket and 
half-held out her hand. “I wanted you to have this. For a 
collage. If you want.” 

It rested on cotton in an old-fashioned cardboard box 
marked FILENE’S: a crushed bauble with the sheen of 
tarnished silver, coin-flat and lighter than tissue. He 
could see in it the shape that it must once have had. A 
Cody kite like the kites an eleven-year-old girl had 
watched with her first alien. It was small in his hand: 
made for a girl’s hand, a girl not full grown, needing to 
wonder at something much smaller than she, and long 
ago. 



"You said something once,” she said. "Humans keep 
art." She shrugged and turned away, turned back. "Come 
show it to me when you’re done,’’ she said. Then she was 
gone. 

Ernest stood looking out over the river beyond the wall. 
Humans keep art. Humans have a past, have memory. In 
the sky the kites were still flying in his head. Memory 
bums, memory cracks and falls away, memory dies under 
alien claws. Art hurts and will not stop. What could art 
be about in a city of aliens? 

He reached out and touched the paper with Juno’s face, 
but left it on the wall. In his room were all the things he 
picked up in his wandering. At night, in his room, he 
pasted together old Coke squeeze bottles, feathers of birds 
of Earth. He drew on them, eyes, clouds, gestures, hands, 
urgent shapes on feathers and paper. Collages. 

Humans keep art. And somewhere in the human city 
waited the Phneri, the Phneri and all the somber aliens. 
He wished that he had dared to steal the Polynesian 
weaving. 

He turned the little ruined silver thing between thumb 
and forefinger. She had kept it, and kept with it her 
eleven-year-old self, an afternoon on the Common watch- 
ing the kites fly. Is art only the stories we tell about 
ourselves? The sunlight shimmered across the metal. “I 
could put it into something,’’ he thought, more or less, or 
merely felt about it what he felt about almost everything, 
all the time now, the focus of some question. He dropped 
it back inside the box and put the box in his pocket and 
wandered on, down the path, toward Boston. □ 



A special anthology 



Aboriginal Science Fiction has been nominated for a 
Hugo Award for three years in a row. 

Now is your chance to see some of the best stories and 
art from Aboriginal ' s first seven issues — the issues for which 
it was nominated for the 1988 Hugo. We have published a 
special 80-page full-color, full-size, glossy collection of stories 
and art from those early issues — the issues which were 
originally not published on slick paper. 

The anthology is 8V2 by 11 inches in size and contains 
12 stories along with 19 pages of full-color art. It has 80 pages 
chock full of great entertainment. 

The special anthology includes the following stories: 

“Search and Destroy” by Frederik Pohl 

“Prior Restraint" by Orson Scott Card 

“The Milk of Knowledge" by Ian Watson 

“Sing” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch 

“Merchant Dying" by Paul A. Gilster 

“It Came From the Slushpile” by Bruce Bethke 

“An Unfiltered Man” by Robert A. Metzger 

“Containment” by Dean Whitlock 

“Passing" by Elaine Radford 

“What Brothers Are For" by Patricia Anthony 

“The Last Meeting at Olduvai” by Steven R. Boyett 

"Regeneration” by Rory Harper 

The special anthology is bound to be a collector’s item. 
It retails for $4.50 You can order it direct from us for $4.50 
plus $1.00 postage and handling. Send your check or money 
order for $5.50 to: Aboriginal Science Fiction, P.O. Box 2449, 
Woburn, MA 01888. 




Three Boston Artists 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



63 




WHAT IF? 






By Robert A. Metzger 



Don’t Talk to 
My Grandma 



^ I Vo of the most cherished and 
unquestioned beliefs in physics 
are that the speed of light cannot be 
ex<- ceded and that time travel is im- 
possible. These two things are often 
considered givens, boundary condi- 
tions that simply cannot be violated 
when trying to solve some physical 
problems in the real world. These 
things are beaten into a physicist at a 
young and tender age, when concepts 
and principles have a tendency to get 
hardwired into the brain. But a few 
are starting to question these unques- 
tionable facts. 

Kip Thome and his students at Cal 
Tech have proposed a method to build 
a time machine. It's actually a two- 
step process. First you have to figure 
out a way to exceed the speed of light, 
and once you’ve done that, by com- 
parison, the actual building of the 
time machine is a rather trivial task. 

I'm not lying. 

These are real scientists, getting 
paid real paychecks, all for the pur- 
pose of violating our most basic beliefs 
and principles. It may sound impos- 
sible, but remember this: Cal Tech is 
in California, just a few miles outside 
of Los Angeles. And I guarantee you 
that if time travel ever is developed, it 
will be done first in Los Angeles. It 
may be the only practical solution to 
gridlock. 

But I digress. 

How can you exceed the speed of 
light? 

The standard approach has been 
one that tries to use a black hole. A 
black hole is little more than a hole 
punched through the fabric of space- 
time by a huge mass (ten, to millions 
of, times as massive as our sun) which 
has been squeezed down by gravita- 
tional forces until it occupies essen- 
tially no volume (this defines it as a 
singularity, something that mathe- 
maticians seem to delight in, but that 



makes physicists squirm). The -back- 
side of this black hole punches back 
into normal space at some point at the 
far end of the universe (or possibly 
into another universe), producing 
what could be called a white hole. 

Perfect, you might be saying. 

Just aim the old spaceship for a 
black hole and find yourself spurting 
out its backside through a white hole. 
You’ve definitely exceeded the speed 
of light. 

No. 

The trouble in using this approach 
for faster-than-light travel lies with 
the singularity at the bottom of the 
black hole. You and everything in 
your spaceship get squished down to 
zero volume as you try to pass through 
it. I would not recommend this. 

But people did not give up on the 
old black hole so easily. They kept 
pounding on the math and discovered 
that a tunnel could be opened, allow- 
ing you to pass through to the white 
hole, while at the same time letting 
you pass by the singularity, if the hole 
itself were rotating or electrically 
charged. 

But there are problems with even 
this approach. 

The tunnel is unstable — very un- 
stable. 

It will collapse under the slightest 
disturbance. 

If so much as a single piece of light, 
a single photon, were to enter the tun- 
nel, that disturbance would force the 
tunnel to collapse. And your 
spaceship would certainly be larger 
than a single photon. So it appears 
that the black hole just isn’t going to 
let you zip around the universe, ex- 
ceeding the speed of light. Another 
approach was needed, a different way 
of looking at the problem. 

Enter Kip Thome. 

He decided to look at this problem 
from the opposite end of the spectrum, 




not at massive black holes, but at 
something smaller — so small, in fact, 
that, by comparison, it would make an 
electron look like something that 
could span the galaxy. 

Quantum foam. 

When you get down to the micro- 
scopic world, things begin to get quan- 
tized. Things like the energy levels in 
atoms are no longer continuous, but 
discrete, with only a few allowable 
energy levels permitted (this is a 
quantum mechanics effect). Well, this 
effect may happen to more than just 
fundamental atomic particles — it 
may happen to the very fabric of 
space. At small enough dimensions 
space itself may not be continuous, 
but composed of very small discrete 
bits. And just how small are we talk- 
ing about? 

This distance, called the Planck 
distance, is on the order of 10 33 cen- 
timeters — that’s a 1 with thirty-two 
zeros between it and the decimal 
point. For comparison, a single atom 
has dimensions on the order of 10 8 
centimeters, something that is ten 
million billion billion times larger 
than the Planck distance! If you could 
somehow see down to those dimen- 
sions, space would not be some empty, 
featureless void, but something frothy 
and foamy with all those little frac- 
tured and splintered bits of reality 
rubbing and grinding against one 
another. 

Thorne and others have postulated 
that, within this foam, small tunnels 
are opened between these ultra-small 
bits of quantized space. They’re called 
wormholes. But these are not typical 
tunnels, something to connect point A 
to point B. The wormhole has the 
amazing property that point A and 
point B are more than just connected 
by the tunnel; they're actually coinci- 

Copyright © 1990 by Robert A. Metzger 



64 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



What If? 





dent. Point A and point B are physi- 
cally at the same location if you enter 
the tunnel. If you step on point A, you 
find yourself mysteriously whisked 
across the intervening space and also 
standing on point B. This may sound 
quite impressive, but remember — 

the distance between point A and 

33 

point B is only on the order of 10 
centimeters. This method obviously 
isn’t going to let you j ump to the stars. 

This is where Thome gets creative. 

Theoretical physicists have this 
warped way of looking at the world. 
They are quite satisfied if they can 
simply prove that something is not 
impossible. To theoretical physicists, 
the implementation of their mathe- 
matical nightmares into something 
real and buildable is a trivial and 
often unimportant detail. So what 
Thome calls upon to help him out in 
transforming these wormholes into 
something large enough to launch a 
spaceship through is the Arbitrarily 
Advanced Civilization (AAC). This is 
someone or something that must still 
obey the physical laws that constrain 
the universe but has absolutely no 
engineering limitations. 

To a member of the AAC, things 
like constructing black holes from 
scratch, transforming entire galaxies 
into quasars, or studying the origins 
of the universe by recreating the Big 
Bang are the equivalent of you or I 
managing to win third-runner-up 
prize in a junior high school science 
fair for a model of the solar system 
that’s been built out of golf balls and 
fishing line. 

So what does Thome call on the 
AAC to do? 

First they must expand the 
wormhole. They must somehow feed 
energy into it, forcing it to grow into a 
useable size, while at the same time 
reinforcing it with a special type of 
material that will keep it from collaps- 
ing back on itself. This is because the 
wormhole oscillates, its throat open- 
ing and closing continuously. If you 
tried to move through the wormhole 
while it was oscillating, you’d be 
squished just as if you’d jumped into 
a black hole. But the wormhole can be 
stabilized and kept open if it's laced 
with a special type of material — a 
material which has a negative mass 
energy density. It's this special 
material requirement that will really 
stretch the AAC’s engineering ability. 
Thome likes to call this threading 
material exotic. And what exactly 



does that mean? 

This exotic material would have 
some very strange properties, but you 
can still think of it as the same sort of 
normal material that you encounter 
every day — rocks, houses, dogs, or 
even physics professors (I’m not total- 
ly certain about this one). But there is 
one major difference. All the things 
listed above, with the possible excep- 
tion of the physics professor, exhibit a 
positive gravitational force on one 
another — they’re all attracted to 
each other. In the conventional, non- 
Thorne universe, gravity is solely an 
attractive force. But this exotic 
material would produce a negative 
gravitational field — things would be 
repelled from it. 

This is the weakest point in 
Thorne’s time machine — it may even 
violate the general theory of relativity 
(one more of those cherished sacred 
cows of physics), but that’s not quite 
clear. But if an AAC could generate 
this material, they could then con- 
struct a massive wormhole that would 
not pinch itself off. If they can do this, 
transforming the stabilized wormhole 
into a time machine is now child’s play 
— all it requires is applying the spe- 
cial theory of relativity. 

Most of you have heard about 
Einstein’s twin paradox. One twin is 
put in a spaceship that’s sent off 
traveling at nearly the speed of light. 
At those speeds, it appears to the twin 
who has been left back on Earth that 
time in the speeding spaceship has 
slowed down. When the traveling 
twin returns years later, he’s only 
aged a few days, while the Earth- 
bound twin has aged years. 

Think of those twins as being the 
two ends of the wormhole. 

Take one end of the wormhole, 
launch it somewhere into the galaxy, 
making sure that it’s traveling at al- 
most the speed of 1 ight, and then bring 
it back to Earth. The traveling end of 
the wormhole has aged less. This 
means that a person who now steps 
into the stationary end of the 
wormhole and then walks out of the 
end that has just traveled around the 
galaxy will step out into the past. 

You’ve just made a time machine. 

According to Thorne, you've vio- 
lated no physical laws. You’ve certain- 
ly bent, folded, spindled, and 
mutilated them, but you have not ac- 
tually broken them. 

We can’t yet do this, and may in 
fact never be able to — the engineer- 



ing may always be beyond us. But if 
there are AACs out there who may 
have generated all these time travel- 
ing wormholes, think of the conse- 
j quences. They could be creating and 
I discarding these wormholes in the 
■ same way that we make plastic bot- 
tles and dirty diapers. And just like 
us, they might try to dump them in 
some backward spot in the universe, 
somewhere out of the way and hidden, 
where there’s no one of sufficient in- 
telligence to complain to someone in 
authority. We could all wake up 
tomorrow and find the planet full of 
discarded wormholes. 

Think about it. 

No one would be safe. 

Someone could slip into one, meet 
your grandmother when she was a 
sweet thing of sixteen, and spend a 
few critical seconds talking with her 
— just enough time to delay her on 
that fateful morning when she first 
met your grandfather. Because of that 
little conversation they never meet. 
They never marry. 

You’ll never be born. 

This is serious business. 

Something should be done about it. 

Perhaps a law should be passed 
about walking into discarded 
wormholes and then talking to six- 
teen-year-old girls. 

I suggest you write your congres- 
sional representatives. 

And if they don’t write back, or take 
you seriously, I further suggest you 
keep a close eye out for wandering 
wormholes, and make sure that when 
you do jump into one, you know the 
childhood address of your congres- 
sional representative’s grandmother. 

□ 

What is 
an SASE? 

Many of our readers who would like 
to be writers do not know what a SASE 
is, or when it must be used. 

We know, because our office is filling 
up with unsolicited manuscripts which 
were submitted without a SASE. A 
j SASE is a self-addressed, stamped en- 
velope included with a manuscript so 
that it can be returned if it is not ac- 
cepted. A smaller SASE is used if you 
don’t want the manuscript or art 
returned and simply wish a response. 
SASEs are also helpful if you desire an 
answer to a question you might have 
about the magazine or your sub. □ 



What If? 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 1 990 



65 




Aboriginul No. 4 



The Aboriginal 
Art Gallery 

The Aboriginal Art Gallery is your 
chance to obtain a glossy full-color print 
of one or more of the illustrations used 
for our early covers. The prints are crisp 
and as sharp as the original art work 
and have a clarity we could not 
reproduce here. 

These prints are big. Most of them are 
1 1 by 14 inches and will be mailed rolled 
in a tube. The cost is S15 for each un- 
mounted print, plus $3 postage and han- 
dling. 

To order one or more prints, send 
your check to: 

The Aboriginal Art Gallery 
c/o Aboriginal Science Fiction 
P.O. Box 2449 
Woburn, MA 01888-08-19 



Aboriginal No. 7 



Aboriginal No. l; 





Classified Ads 

(CLASSIFIED ADS may be placed in 
Aboriginal Science Fiction for $30 per 
column inch, or $1.00 per word, per ap- 
pearance, payment with order. A one-inch 
ad paid in advance for six issues is $150. 
A one- inch ad paid in advance for 12 issues 
is S270. Our recent survey shows that, 
based on a paid circulation of 31,000, each 
issue will reach an estimated 71,300 
readers.) 



BUYING A COMPUTER OR 
PRINTER? Before buying that next com- 
puter. printer, or software program, give 
us a call. Many brands available, including 
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magazine. Each sale will benefit 
Aboriginal Science Fiction. Call All-Pur- 
pose Sales & Rentals, 100-K Tower Office 
Park. Woburn, MA 01801, Tel. 1(617)- 
935-9339 for more information. 

1-31 



I’VE BEEN SELLING reasonably 
priced science fiction, fantasy and horror 
paperbacks, hardcovers and magazines 
since 1967. Free catalogs! Pandora’s Books 
Ltd.. Box ABO-54, Neche, ND 58265. 

1-37 



SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY 
books and magazines (new and used). 
Send Si for 64-page catalog. Collections 
purchased, large or small. Robert A. 
Madle, 4406 Bestor Drive, Rockville, MD 
20853 1-27 



SF POSTERS, MUGS, PATCHES, 
T-shirts, jewelry, and more. Catalog $1. 
Space Station, Dept. B, 451 Moody St., 
Waltham, MA 02154 1-25 



BUY, SELL, TRADE 1st. editions and 
pulps, 50-page catalog $2, Graham Hol- 
royd, 19 Borrowdale Drive, Rochester, NY 
14626, Tel.7 16-225-4879 1-24 



40,000 SF, Fantasy and Horror collec- 
tibles & reader copies. Want lists 
preferred, Catalog Spring 1990. Burke 
Used Books, 5741 Burke Ctr. Pkwy, 
Burke, VA 22015. (703)250-51 14 1-24 



110-PAGE CATALOG Over 1,500 
SF/Fantasy/Horror hardcover titles, in- 
cluding many Arkham House Books. Mid- 
night Book Co. & Adam’s Bookstore, 3881 
E. Thomas Road, Suite C-6, Phoenix, AZ 
85018 1-24 



ZELAZNY! For the first time on audio 
cassette, Roger Zelazny reads EYE OF 

67 



CAT (5 hours of listening). To order your 
copy (3 cassettes), send check or money 
order $26.95 (postpaid) to: Lotus Light, 
P.O. Box 2A, Wilmot, WI 53192 

1-23 



FINE SF & FANTASY COLLEC- 
TABLE Paperbacks for sale. Send $1.00 
for my latest, and all future catalogs. DC 
Books, 30 Clifford Dr., West Hartford, CT 
06107 1-23 



COMICS BUYERS GUIDE — Comics 
and science fiction news and reviews! Fea- 
tures! Letters! World’s largest comics 
marketplace! Since 1983. Save money with 
introductory subscription rate: $14.95 for 
26 issues (just 58 cents an issue!). Comics 
Buyer's Guide, Circulation Dept. BL7, 700 
E. State St., Iola, WI 54990 (US rate only. 
Write for foreign rates) 1-23 



THRUST — Science Fiction & Fantasy 
Review is the field's most respected review 
magazine, and a three-time Hugo Award 
nominee! Recent contributors have in- 
cluded Michael Bishop, Dave Bischoff, 
Greg Benford, George Alec Effinger, 
Richard Geis, David Langford, Ardath 
Mayhar, Charles Platt, Kim Stanley 
Robinson, John Shirley, and Darrell 
Schweitzer! Subscribe today! four issues @ 
$8.00 ($10.00 foreign), sample $2.50. 
Thrust Publications, 8217 Langport Ter- 
race Gaithersburg, MD 20877 USA 1-22 

FREE LIST of collectable books for 
sale. Send SASE to: Old Earth Books, Box 
19951, Baltimore, MD 2121 1 1-22 



SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, 
HORROR — New, Used, Rare 1st edi- 
tions. Send $1 for catalog. F. & W. Curry 
— Books and Memorabilia, Mail Order 
Dept., 6036 Richmond Hwy, #T203, 
Alexandria, VA 22303 1-22 



FINE SF/FANTASY collectable 
paperbacks for sale. Send $1 for my latest 
and all future catalogs. DC Books, 30 Clif- 
ford Dr., West Hartford, CT 06107 1-22 

BEAUTIFUL BORIS VALLEJO & 
John Pound prints to wear! Hand silk- 
screened, top quality, licensed artwear. 
$10 ea. Send $1.00 for color brochure to: 
Fantasy Company, P.O. Box 54511, Lexi- 
ngton, KY, 40505 1-22 



SHORT STORY CONTEST. 29th An- 
nual National Fantasy Fan Federation 
amateur science fiction and fantasy con- 
test. Send SASE for rules and entry blanks 
to: Donald Franson, 6543 Babcock Ave., 
North Hollywood, CA 91606. Mention 
Aboriginal SF. 1-22 



QUARTERLY SCIENCE FICTION & 
FANTASY SHORT STORY CONTEST! 
for new and amateur writers. 1st, 2nd, and 
3rd prizes: $1000, $750, and $500. All 
works adjudicated by published authors 
only. Entrants must not have previously 
published more than three short stories or 
one novelette. No entry fee. Details SASE: 
L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of The Future 
Contest, P.O. Box 1630, Los Angeles, CA 
90078 1-23 



NEW QUARTERLY CONTEST for 
amateur science fiction artists worldwide! 
$1500 in prizes each quarter. Quarterly 
winners compete for $4000 annual prize 
under professional art direction. No entry 
fee is required. Entrants retain all rights. 
All judging by professional artists only. 
Don’t delay! Details SASE: L. Ron 
Hubbard's illustrators of the Future Con- 
test, P.O. Box 3190, IjOs Angeles, CA 90078 

1-23 



DEALER IN FILM ANIMATORS’ 
ORIGINAL ART EXCLUSIVELY Write 
or call for free catalog. Ms. Elvena M. 
Green, 775 Livingstone PI. Decatur, GA 
30030404-377-3333 By Appointment Only 

1-21 

NEW & OUT OF PRINT SF & HOR- 
ROR Large selection of art prints and 
proofs available. Free catalogs of issues. 
Book Gallery, 6220 Camp Bowie, Ft. 
Worth, TX 76116. 817-738-2522 1-21 

FILK — (SF related folk music) tapes 
and song books, some folk titles. $1.00 for 
catalog and $2.00 off first mail order to 
Wail Songs, POB 29888, Oakland, CA 
94604 1-21 

DID YOU KNOW 50% of the books we 
sell are bought by dealers? Perhaps yours 
??? Find out why! Free monthly catalogs 
— hardcover or paperback/digesl 
(American + British). We buy collections 
as well! Celebrating 10 years — Gorgon 21 
Deer Lane, Wantagh, NY 11793 1-21 

DRAGONS!. Greatest selection of 
dragon items. T-shirts, posters, stationery, 
rubber-stamps, jewelry, and more. Send 
$2.00 for full-color Dragon catalog. Danc- 
ing Dragon Designs- ABO, 1881 Fieldbrook 
Rd. AB, Areata, CA 95521 1-21 



WANTED Calendars by Boris Vallejo. 
1988 to 1985 $15 each, before 1985 $25 
each. Like new only! Irvin Lush, 975 
Logan St., Louisville, KY 40204-1835 

Your Ad 
could 90 in 
thi/ /poce 

1990 



Aboriginal Science Fiction — July-August 



Classified Ads 





Philip Jose Farmer is one of the great names in science fiction 
worldwide, and his major work of the last decade has been the 
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his bestselling sucess with the classic Riverworld saga. 

Now, the trilogy is complete — with DAYWORLD BREAKUP. 

Praise for the Dayworld series: 

“Another of Farmer’s striking mythic variations on civilization and its 
discontents.” — Publishers Weekly 

“A painstakingly created future world of military precision, Dayworld 
is. ..every bit as appealing as the Riverworld saga .” — Booklist 

85035-2 • 352 pages • $18.95 

COMING IN JUNE